What’s the C-27 Plan?

The House Armed Services Committee wants the Air Force and Army to provide their plan for the way forward with the new C-27J Spartan Joint Combat Aircraft, given that the Pentagon arbitrarily reversed itself, giving the aircraft and the “last tactical mile” mission to the Air Force alone, and reduced the buy from 78 aircraft to 38 in its 2010 budget request. In the committee’s markup of the 2010 bill, the defense authorizers have asked the two services to identify the new C-27J force structure, where they plan to base the aircraft, and what missions are in line for those National Guard units that now will not be getting the JCA mission. The bulk of those would be Army Guard, but if the Pentagon sticks with only 38 aircraft, some Air Guard units could be left out as well. Both the Air Force and Army have told lawmakers that they are in the midst of working out the details for the mission shift and the reduced allocation. And, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has said he believes that 38 aircraft represent the “floor, not the ceiling” for this mission. However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has pointed to unused capability within the C-130 tactical airlift fleet that he believes could support the “last tactical mile” requirement.