Alenia Aermacchi looks to build on Australian C-27J success

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Australia's recent order for 10 C-27J Spartan tactical transports will keep Alenia Aermacchi's production line active until the middle of this decade, but the company is actively pursuing further orders, says chief executive Giuseppe Giordo.

Alenia Aermacchi has so far received two contracts following Canberra's 12 May selection decision, with another to be signed soon to bring its overall business value to more than $500 million.

"We have received contracts from the Australian Department of Defence to provide the capability to operate, maintain, modify and upgrade in-country the C-27J aircraft and its support systems for the long term," Giordo says.

"A third contract, covering training, maintenance and initial logistic support for the first three years, is to be signed soon between Alenia, L-3 Communications and the US government," he adds. The Italian company expects to secure additional business to perform such work through-life.

L-3 is prime contractor for Australia's Air 8000 Phase 2 battlefield airlifter programme, and will install US-specific equipment with the new-build C-27Js at its Waco facilities in Texas.

The Australian government has indicated an overall A$1.4 billion ($1.39 billion) programme cost for its C-27J acquisition. Alenia Aermacchi is now ordering long-lead production items, with deliveries expected to run between early 2015 and September 2016. Acquired to replace the Royal Australian Air Force's retired de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribous, the type should achieve initial operational capability late in 2016.

Giordo says the Australian deal will help to sustain the C-27J production line until 2015, but that additional deals under discussion could extend this until 2018 or 2019.

"With the support of the Italian government, we believe we might receive additional orders from other customers," Giordo says, adding that Alenia has spare production capacity. Any such deals will be negotiated as direct commercial sales rather than using the US Foreign Military Sales mechanism, he says.

Alenia Aermacchi has so far delivered 49 C-27Js from confirmed orders for 89 aircraft. The remainder are on order for Australia, Mexico, Romania and the USA.

Meanwhile, the Finmeccanica company continues to work on proposed command-and-control and armed versions of the type for special operations.