Finding the Fit

More study is necessary to identify how to exploit the cost and performance advantages of the C-27 small-sized transport, Gen. Arthur Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command, told the House Armed Services Committee April 1 in written testimony. Here’s why: The USAF intratheater airlift fleet mix analysis, or UIAFMA, completed by RAND at the end of 2007 showed that procuring additional C-130Js actually is “the most cost-effective alternative” to meet the shortfall caused by the retirement of the C-130E model, according to Lichte. This applied when examining the types of missions covered in the Pentagon’s most recent mobility capability study. The UIAFMA also found that additional C-27s beyond the Air Force’s 24-aircraft program of record “are not as cost-effective” for those same scenarios, Lichte writes. In fact the UIAFMA found that the C-27 is “60 percent to 70 percent less cost-effective” than the C-130J in performing those missions. However, RAND did identify missions outside of the scope of the MCS where the C-27 is more cost-effective, the general noted. For example, the C-27 was “five percent to 15 percent more cost-effective” than the C-130J on Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom scheduled theater airlift routes and OEF point-to-point missions, he writes. Now the Air Force is interested in follow-on analysis of such alternative missions, he said. Among potential roles deemed promising for the C-27 are: recapitalization of operational support aircraft inventories, precision airdrop, delivery of special operations forces and other small units, more efficient movement of small payloads within a combat theater, and support of civil agencies after disasters and crises. The Air Force’s leadership has consistently stated its commitment to the C-27, which USAF is procuring jointly with the Army.