Air Transportation: October 5, 2004


The Army and the Air Force are disagreeing over the Army's need for a twin-engine transport plane think of it as a smaller version of the four engine C-130 to deliver small priority cargos on rough forward airfields. The Air Force wants to own the planes, control how they are used, and dictate how many the Army will get. Army officials contend that they must have a two-engine plane to work around scheduling conflicts with bigger Air Force planes like the C-17 or C-130 and to stop burning up flight time on the CH-47 heavy-left helicopters. The CH-47 ended up being pressed into service for longer-distance work because they don't have enough air force short-haul transports at their disposal. Operational demand in Afghanistan and other regions has convinced the Army they need at least 100 to 140 aircraft to support the moving of critical loads, such as helicopter engines, electronics, and weapons. 

Congress has authorized the purchase of a single C-27J transport aircraft -and the Army has set aside enough money to buy 25 C-27Js to replace 43 older Air National Guard C-23 Sheraps airplanes. The Air Force started to get upset when the number of aircraft the Army wanted started climbing from around 50 to a high of 400 to 500 aircraft, with each state National Guard getting between 8-10 aircraft. A more realistic number is around 140 aircraft, with 88 to go to the Air National Guard, 32 for the Army reserve, 3 for the Golden Knights parachute team and 17 training aircraft. Neither the Air Force or Navy are happy about the sudden demand for aircraft, fearing their own budgets will be raided. 

The real conflict seems to be around how the aircraft would be allocated for combat use. The Air Force wants to control scheduling while the Army wants to be able to move payloads on demand when they need them in a convenient fashion. Airlift would be an extension of a rapidly deployable force, both for getting it into action and providing timely logistical support. 

The C-27J transport has a range of around 4600 kilometers with a six ton payload and is an upgraded version of the G222 Italian transport plane, using more powerful engines (the engines are actually the same as used in the C-130J) and modern avionics. Greece and Italy currently operate the aircraft. Doug Mohney.




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