You Can’t Beat Free

The Air Force’s former C-27J Spartans are already well equipped for their new role with the US Coast Guard and the service plans to begin operations as soon as its pilots can be trained, said USCG Commandant Adm. Robert Papp. “We’re delighted to get them from the Air Force—it saves us about a half a billion dollars in acquisition costs,” Papp told reporters at a round table in Washington D.C., April 8. Since they’re already military aircraft, the Spartans come pre-fit with the same communications and avionics the Coast Guard already uses, and even boast “a good surface search radar” for maritime operations, said Papp. “Initially, we really don’t have to do much more than paint them,” he said, adding that training instructors and pilots will be the limiting factor pushing initial operations to Fiscal 2016. The Coast Guard initially eyed buying the C-27J new, but decided to procure its HC-144 Ocean Sentry based on lifecycle cost grounds. Getting the C-27s for free, though, “really lowers the lifecycle cost significantly,” especially considering the airlifter uses the same engines and avionics as the service’s new HC-130Js, further cutting supply chain costs, he said. As a result, the service plans to scale back its HC-144 buy from 36 to 18, said Papp. The Coast Guard will operate a total of 14 of the ex-Air National Guard aircraft. The rest will go to US Special Operations Command.