Canberra defends C-27J decision after Airbus protests

Singapore
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Australia has defended its decision to acquire the L-3 Communications/Alenia C-27J tactical airlifter following a press release by Airbus Military expressing dissatisfaction with the decision.

In a point-by-point statement on the department of defence web site, minister for defence Stephen Smith dismissed Airbus Military's contention that there was no "competition" to fill the AIR 8000 Phase 2 requirement for 10 battlefield airlifters.

"A competitive down select to the C-27J was made following an exhaustive assessment by the [department of defence], defence materiel organisation, and air force of information provided by the manufacturers of the aircraft, including Airbus Military and the C-295."

Smith's comments followed a release by Airbus Military on 11 May, one day after Canberra announced the A$1.4 billion ($1.4 billion) purchase of the C-27J through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) mechanism. His comments were made in a reply to questions by a local journalist related to the Airbus Military statement. Smith's office did not reply to similar questions posed by Flightglobal.

Airbus Military says that the C-27J decision was arrived at through the air force's "own desktop assessments".

"When compared to other projects with similar size price tags that go through an arduous process of tender responses and deep investigation of all areas concerning ownership and capability, this effort falls short of a full evaluation process," said Airbus Military.

Smith also dismissed Airbus Military's claim that the C-27J cost A$1 billion more than a similar C-295 purchase. He says Airbus Military's comments about pricing included only the cost of the aircraft, failing to consider additional costs such as modifications, spares, training, technical data and management fees.

"Airbus would be aware of these essential programme costs being included in defence projects through its own experience with the KC-30A multi-role tanker transport [MRTT] aircraft project."

In Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) service, the A330 MRTT is designated the KC-30A.

In its release, Airbus Military cited a price of A$400 million for 10 C-295s. For its part, L-3, the prime contractor for the C-27J buy, says the aircraft alone will cost $300 million, while the entire value of L-3's contract is $600 million, which includes logistics, spares, and training. 

Australia's C-27Js will be based at RAAF Richmond. The first delivery is expected in 2015, with initial operating capability planned for the end of 2016.