January 04, 2013
Credit: Credit: C-27J Team
U.S. Air Force officials have decided not to renew a contract with Alenia North America to support and induct the small, Italian-made C-27A transport aircraft into the Afghan Air Force.
The decision, provided by the Air Force via letter Dec. 18, is the latest in a string of disappointments for Italian Aerospace conglomerate Finmeccanica as it has sought to boost its U.S. business.
Last February, the Air Force abruptly halted purchases of Alenia’s C-27J Spartan for use by U.S. forces, In addition, Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland rotorcraft in 2009 lost the joint program with Lockheed Martin to build the next-generation Marine One presidential helicopter.
The Afghan transport decision leaves Alenia little stateside work beyond March.
The moves come after what Air Force officials called “failed attempts” by Alenia to “generate a sufficient number of fully mission-capable aircraft for effective [Afghan Air Force] airlift capability.” According to Ed Gulick, a service spokesman, “Though the Air Force assisted Alenia throughout the program in an effort to help the program succeed, Alenia struggled to consistently achieve key contractual requirements.”
An industry official says Alenia is exploring whether it has any recourse to the decision. As the decision is not a contract termination, there is little opportunity for significant termination liability costs to be reimbursed. And without a major U.S. prime contractor involved, the company does not have significant weight in Congress to seek political help outside the Pentagon.
In 2008, the U.S. paid $314 million for the purchase of 20 former Italian Air Force G.222s — designated the C-27A by the Air Force — to give to the fledging Afghan National Army Air Corps, later the Afghan Air Force, an independent tactical transport capability to replace Soviet-era Antonov An-32s.
However, their introduction to service has been far from smooth. Only 16 of the aircraft have been delivered to Afghanistan, with four remaining in Italy. Despite a deployed team of contractors, the aircraft struggled with serviceability issues and have been grounded twice — once in December 2011 on airworthiness grounds, and again in March 2012 because of safety issues that delayed the training of Afghan personnel. That forced the use of smaller Cessna 208 Caravans and Mi-17 helicopters for transport operations.