You know all of those C-27Js that the U.S. Air Force is planning to mothball? We’re not about to tell the Air Force what to do with them, but our neighbors to the north just so happen to have shown an interest in the aircraft, and they do have a requirement for a new search-and-rescue platform … Just sayin’.
While the Ottawa government has pushed back its planned $3.1 billion purchase of new search-and-rescue fixed-wing aircraft until 2013, there has been a continued—if temporarily thwarted—push to buy the C-27J Spartan to replace the nearly 50-year-old C-115 Buffalos and C-130 Hercules that Canadian forces currently fly. The replacement program has been stop-and-go for several years, due in part to charges of dirty dealings in the Department of National Defense. The Canadian Press has more:
The project was initially delayed by accusations from the defence industry that the air force had rigged the specifications to favour the Italian-built, turboprop C-27J Spartan.
[Defense Minister Peter] MacKay ordered the National Research Council to examine how the proposal was structured and it came back in March 2010 with a report that said the Defence Department needed to broaden its requirements.
All the way back to 2007, the Canadian government had appeared ready to buy the C-27, but lobbying by competitors and testimony by former Defense Department personnel claiming that the Air Force had fashioned requirements to favor the Spartan caused the government to put a hold on it.
Since then, several bidders have lined up to enter the competition. Lockheed Martin wants to sell Ottawa more C-130J Hercules transports, arguing that since the Air Force already operates the platform, it can keep life-cycle costs down by simply ordering more. The Canadian Press also says that Boeing has “apparently demonstrated its V-22 Osprey tilt-wing plane,” while Canadian companies Viking Air Ltd. and Bombardier Inc. are also in contention.
But even if the Canadians buy the Spartan, it doesn’t mean they’ll buy them from the U.S. C-27 maker Alenia Aermacchi recently protested that if the U.S. sells its Spartans to another country, they’ll refuse to service them. While this is probably an empty threat (most companies don’t walk away from lucrative long-term sustainment deals), it does add another wrinkle to the very odd saga of the C-27 in North America.