May 26, 2012:
Australia is buying (for $140 million each) ten C-27J transports for its RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force). The C-27J (a joint U.S./Italian upgrade of the Italian G-222) is a 28 ton aircraft that can carry nine tons for up to 2,500 kilometers and land on smaller and less sturdy airfields than the C-130 or C-17 (both of which Australia also operates) can handle. Most of Australia is the sparsely populated "outback" (the largely desert interior).
The C-27Js replace 14 1960s era DHC-4 Caribou transports. These were 13 ton, twin-engine aircraft that could carry 3.6 tons for up to 1,200 kilometers. Australia retired the DHC-4s three years ago (they were worn out) but it took a while to find a suitable replacement. Australia wants the twin engine aircraft because they can use smaller airfields (twice as many are available compared to the C-130). The first C-27J will arrive in 2015, and will enter service the following year.
The C-27 is a popular aircraft, even the older models. The Afghan Air Corps has bought 20 C-27As. These Italian made aircraft are easy to fly and very popular with their Afghan pilots. For example, the C-27A can fly as slow as 160 kilometers an hour, with the cargo door open to drop cargo by parachute.
The C-27As were obtained for Afghanistan by the U.S., from the Italian Air Force, for $16 million each. The U.S. Air Force bought ten C-27As in the 1990s, but took them out of service because it was cheaper to fly stuff in the larger C-130. At least until the air force had to operate in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army and Air Force had a deal to buy and jointly operate 78 C-27Js, but that fell apart from lack of cash and air force enthusiasm. The U.S. Air Force is seeking a buyer for the 13 it has and is hiring airlines that operate twin-engine transports to handle military needs for these aircraft in Afghanistan.