Now transport and supply aircraft may not be all that sexy to you, but most of us (including myself) have not had one drop off ammunition to us when we were running low either.
The Air Force is in the process of acquiring a new aircraft known as the C-27J Spartan. The Spartan is described as a Hercules-light, referencing the C-130 Hercules, which is one of the best aircraft to ever fly and almost certainly the most versatile aircraft in the inventory.
The Spartan has about half the load capability of the Herc, with 3.5 pallet positions to the Herc's 6 to 8. It will bring much needed capabilities to the Air Force, though. The Spartan was designed from the outset to be very rugged and tough. This translates to higher readiness rates, easier and cheaper maintenance schedules, and (hopefully) better resistance to enemy fire. One of the main capabilities of the Spartan is its ability to use smaller or unprepared airstrips. It was envisioned as being a plane capable of operating easily in very austere and unforgiving environments.
The C-27 could conceivably be able to fill many different roles, from direct support to medevac with up to 36 stretchers, and even perhaps one day, combat as a mini gunship. It is used in Canadian service as a Search and Rescue aircraft and could be used for this as well in US hands. As a platform for paratroopers and Special Forces, the Spartan brings higher doors, room for 46 troopers in seats, and a smaller radar cross section, all of which would be appreciated. Also, there is less prop wash for jumpers because the engines are placed further out on the wing.
The smaller size of the C-27J can actually be a positive in many instances. Not every supply run needs dozens of tons of munitions and food, and by using a more appropriately sized aircraft for one mission frees up larger aircraft like the C-130 to perform other missions. Also the Spartan is said to have a higher power to weight ratio than the Hercules, which is certainly not a bad thing. The C-27 can climb and turn very fast, which is extremely useful especially in terrain like that of Afghanistan. It is rated up to 3 Gs on turns and can climb to 10,000 feet in 3 minutes. Combine that with a range of 1000 nautical miles with a payload of 10,000 kilograms and you have a very useful aircraft.
It remains to be seen if the Department of Defense and the Air Force will produce a gunship variant like they have with the current AC-130 and AC-47 of Vietnam. It seems to me that although the C-27 would certainly field fewer weapons than the AC-130, most likely leaving out the 105mm, it could still be extremely effective with a 25mm Gatling gun and a 40mm Bofors cannon. The Spartan can make pretty tight turns, has very good low speed maneuverability, good crew visibility and a potential for a long loiter time . All of these would be valued assets for a gunship, especially in the remote and difficult terrain of Afghanistan and the myriad difficulties of counter insurgency warfare. And if I was getting shot at on the side of a mountain somewhere, I would be very happy indeed to hear 1 small plane instead of 0 big ones.
|Cabin Floor Width||2.45m|
|Cabin Cross Section||6.96m2|
|Cabin Length||11.43m (including ramp)|
|Cabin Floor Area||23.23m2 (excluding ramp)|
|Cabin Volume||69.5m2 (excluding ramp)|