And, the Number Is?

Lawmakers continue to press Air Force and Army officials over the Pentagon 2010 budget proposal to reduce the number of C-27 Spartan Joint Cargo Aircraft from 78 to just 38. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley emphasized that the final number has yet to be decided. He referred to early studies, including ones by the Army and RAND, that said the “78 aircraft package, which was split between the Army and the Air Force, originally at 54 and 24 respectively, is a valid need.” Noting that the 38 C-27s included in the 2010 are intended to replace the Army’s 42 elderly C-23 Sherpas, Donley declared, “I see 38 C-27s as the floor, not the ceiling.” At the same hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said that the Air Force plans to pursue over the summer “the break point between the C-27 capability and the C-130 capability.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that there is excess capacity within the C-130 tactical airlifter fleet, but Donley said he is open to a discussion on the number of C-27s ultimately purchased.