Look up ‘Spartan’ in a dictionary, and you’ll see the word means a) ‘of or relating to the Greek city of Sparta or its people’, b) ‘rigorously self-disciplined or self-restrained’, or finally c) ‘courageous in the face of pain or danger’. That sounds about right for the Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan, that saw its first delivery to Peru last week. However, the multi-mission, benchmark-setting C-27J is not from an ancient Greek city, it is from modern day Turin in Italy, where a visit to the Alenia Aermacchi production line proves that putting together a tough Spartan is actually a delicate and dedicated task.
To be specific, the birth place of all 65 Spartans built to date, is a large assembly hall in the northwest corner of Turin Caselle airport. “And to be even more specific”, says Francesco Dogliatti, C-27J product coordinator, “major components such as the fuselage, cockpit and rear fuselage are built in Capodichino near Naples, after which they are brought by truck or by boat to Turin, where all comes together. Here, we build the best and most cost effective solution for tactical airlift and other missions.”
It’s talk that sounded like music in the ears of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Rumania, Chad, Morocco, the US, Mexico, Australia and Peru. Slovakia is the latest in the list of customers, confirming an order for two aircraft in October last year. In total, the order sheet for the C-27J Spartans shows 80 entries so far. Among those are aircraft that were purchased by the US Air Force, but eventually see use by the US Coast Guard and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
Alenia Aermacchi is confident it will sell more Spartans, with interest drawn from other Latin American countries than Peru. Dogliatti: “The strength of this aircraft is its flexibility. In standard configuration, it can transport up to 60 troops or up to 11,100 kg of payload. In a medevac role, it takes up to 36 stretchers and six attendants.” It offers the capability to fly into places that are unfit for ‘that other’ transport aircraft named after Greek mythology, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. While the Hercules carries more load, the Spartan is certainly more flexible and not Spartan at all in its performance. The Spartan is a known airshow crowd pleaser, with barrel rolls unthinkable for any other aircraft this size. For the large part, its two Rolls Royce AE 2100D2 engines are key, as there’s plenty of power in those.
A range of roll-on/roll-off mission kits adds to the Spartan’s flexibility, with even a forest fire fighting kit available. Most impressive kit is the one that turns the C-27J into the combat MC-27J Praetorian, complete with a L-3 Wescam MX-15Di Electro-Optical and Infrared Turret mounted under the nose to support gunship, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and search and rescue (SAR) missions. The ATK GAU-23 30mm gun sticking out of the fuselage will convince anyone not to mess with the Praetorian. Tests in the US proved successful in 2014, and Alenia Aermacchi has high hopes as well for selling the MC-27J.
More developments are on the way, details about which remain a company secret right now. “We’re trying out some new things on our two C-27J demonstrators”, says Dogliatti, who oversees the Spartan program. During Airheadsfly.com’s visit to Turin in February, production was in full swing with C-27Js in various stages of the build process. Alenia Aermacchi is currently producing aircraft for Peru and Australia. The ‘Down Under’ aircraft are first flown to the US, where further modifications and flight training for Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) crews are done.
Alenia Aermacchi focuses on giving these crews a top notch product in every sense. “We strive for daily perfection. One specialist is dedicated every day to quality control, randomly choosing one aircraft on the production line and monitoring just about everything, from the installation of a complete vertical tail to the fitting of the tiniest screw. It’s a very delicate task.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Once the aircraft leaves the production hall, it heads to the south side of Turin Caselle, where extensive testing takes places in the hands of Alenia Aermacchi test pilots and customer personnel. Every single switch and functionality is tested in the Spartan’s NVG-adaptable cockpit, which was purposely designed to show commonality with the C-130 flight deck, to ease conversion training. After these tests, it’s time to fly the Spartan.
When accepting their first of four Spartans on 27 February 2015 in Turin, Peruvian officials said that the aircraft ‘exceeded expectations’. To the Alenia Aermacchi workers, it’s no surprise. The Peruvians then took their brand new aircraft for a long flight over Italy, in preparation for the even longer delivery flight to its new home. The Fuerza Aerea del Perù is welcoming the spectacular Spartan.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A Fuerza Aerea del Perù Spartan. (Image © Alenia Aermacchi)