While acknowledging problems with the aircraft's introduction, a company official says the fleet is now exceeding the requirements set by the U.S. Air Force. The industry official says Alenia was sent notices warning it of contract deficiencies but never received Air Force feedback on its responses. Alenia funded some contract activities, although terms were not fully ironed out.
“Conservatively, we spent around $20 million of our own money sourcing new parts for these aircraft. That was spent in good faith to retain the contract,” the industry official says. Alenia sourced parts from G222s stored in Argentina to keep the Afghan fleet going and brought in DynCorp for engineering and training and General Dynamics for translation services. Engineers were limited by the number of available hangar slots as they worked on the aircraft, the industry source notes.
Air Force officials acknowledge that 10 aircraft are now flying, and the industry official points out that this exceeds the six required.
Around $600 million has now been spent on the program, and the industry official believes that spending another $60 million would ensure the type's continued operation. This would cost less than introducing a new type such as the C-130, into the fleet, according to the industry official, who says such a move would require the retraining of personnel on a more complex system.
Air Force officials note that they will provide some C-130 support to help close the gap left without the G222s. Also, 26 Air Force-procured Cessna 208s and the Mi-17s bought by the Army are providing airlift in Afghanistan.
In a statement, an Alenia spokesman says the company remains committed to the success of the G222 program and the U.S. Air Force as it stands up a trained and capable Afghan Air Force. “Our team works tirelessly to support the program, meet our commitments and swiftly address any concern, big or small, even those connected to other parties,” the company says.
The NATO Training Mission and the USAF will suspend C-27A flight operations in Afghanistan in the coming weeks, but no decision has been made on the final disposition of the aircraft and the associated support equipment and spare parts.
Gulick says, “Air Force leadership continues to recognize and support Afghanistan's need for a sustained medium-airlift capability to meet current and future Afghan national security requirements. U.S. and Afghan Air Force leadership are engaged in talks . . . on the next steps.”