Analysis: Best Transport Aircraft for Demanding Users
“Best Transport Aircraft for Demanding Users” titled article has been published In the 41st issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review. You can read the article below:
While dual use technologies that have transitioned to military areas after first proving themselves in civilian use can generate interest in defence policies, nothing can better perform as products developed specifically to meet military needs. When it comes to transport aircraft, the C-27J stands out as the aircraft that defines peak performance for its own class.
Only a few select countries across the world possess the capability to deliver, whenever necessary, and under all conditions, the supplies needed by their units in combat zones. For other countries, the absence of this capability generally stems from a lack of the right equipment. Let’s consider the following scenario: Let’s say that you have temporary base near a combat zone that has its own short, unprepared runway. And let’s say that there is an urgent need for a specific piece of equipment in this combat zone. The equipment will be loaded onto military transport containers (or pallets), and delivered to the main base located in close proximity to the temporary base using a transport aircraft, such as the A400M or C-130. The distance between the temporary base in the combat zone and the main base is approximately 200 km. Transporting this equipment by land would take days due to geographical obstacles. So, one option could be to use a helicopter for transport; however, since a single helicopter cannot carry an entire pallet, this would require separating the cargo into smaller pieces. In addition, helicopters would have to follow a flight trajectory that is highly vulnerable to ground fire. The solution you need in this context is a military transport aircraft, capable of landing at a temporary base. In terms of the aircraft models, there are a couple options that could be used. So you review the relevant mission requirements to determine which one is best:
- The aircraft’s cabin size must be able to accommodate a pallet brought by an A400M or C-130 without any re-configuration
- The strength of the cabin, the load it can carry per unit area, must be equally distributed along the entire cabin length and suitable for the pallet’s transport
- The aircraft’s minimum landing and take-off distance must be suitable for the runway in the temporary base
- The aircraft must be able to carry out its mission at the temporary base without requiring any additional ground equipment
- To minimise the time its spends within the range of anti-aircraft guns and shoulder-fired missiles, the aircraft should be able to descend at a steep angle when landing, and rapidly gain altitude immediately after take-off
These requirements are indeed challenging, but you are fortunate; you won’t have to lose any time in reviewing and considering different choices, for there is only one single option that meets all these requirements: The C-27J.
A Real Tactical Transport Aircraft
Designed from the onset as a military aircraft, the C-27J possesses significant advantages compared with competitors originally designed for civilian requirements and later adapted to military tasks. The C-27J features the manoeuvrability, load-carrying capability and subsystems required by military missions. For the most part, these advantages stem from the C-27J’s inherent design, and cannot be provided for other alternative aircraft without making substantial modifications to their design.
Let us now review the advantages, under separate headings.
The Best Friend of Heavy Transport Aircraft
The C-27J is the successor of the Aeritalia G.222 that entered in the United States Air Force’s inventory under the name C-27A. The aircraft’s current naming is based on the C-130J. In fact, the two aircraft have common systems and concepts of use, especially for their engines and cockpit.
But the features the C-27J has in common with heavy transport aircraft are not limited to these. Military pallets transported in heavy transport aircraft can also be carried inside the C-27J’s cabin without any reconfiguration. This compatibility is made possible by two notable features of the C-27J:
- Its wide cabin with a cross-section of 3.33 x 2.6 m, and
- Its cabin floor with a load-bearing capacity of 4,900 kg per square metre, with a constant value, along the entire cabin length.
Thus, a pallet unloaded from a heavy transport aircraft can be directly loaded onto a C-27J. On the other hand, competitor aircraft lack either a cabin with a sufficiently large cross-section or a cabin floor with sufficient load-bearing capacity, meaning that the cargo they carry needs to be divided into smaller pieces for transport.
Take-off and Landing on Par with Military Acrobatics
Take-off in combat zones requires aircraft to reach the safe altitude of 10,000 ft in the shortest time possible. Similarly, during landing, aircraft should stay above 10.000 ft as long as possible. Under this altitude, aircraft are vulnerable to ground fire.
Climbing at a rate of 2,500 ft per minute after take-off, the C-27J can reach 10,000 ft within five minutes. Thanks to its powerful engines, the aircraft can start to gain altitude immediately following take-off, without having to fly horizontally for a certain period of time. (Its competitors, on the other hand, need more than 10 minutes for gaining the same altitude – a requirement that also increases the length of the runway these aircraft require.) Similarly, by descending at a rate of 4,000 ft per minute, the aircraft can land 2.5 minutes later.
As the aircraft lands and takes-off, or as it performs its mission, the C-27J might also have to perform tactical manoeuvres. The C-27J can readily execute 3G manoeuvres, which is a high value for an aircraft of its class.
The C-27J can also take-off from and land on runways covered with snow, sand, or ground with a hardness level below CBR4. On unprepared runways, a runway length of 580 m is sufficient for the C-27J, while a runway length of 340 is enough for landing.
The C-27J Alone is Sufficient!
Another area in which the C-27J stands out is its ability to operate independently on remote airfields, thanks to the powerful APU,. Landing on an unprepared runway at a forward base might be a challenging task, due to the surrounding topography and geographical obstacles. In the absence of an infrastructure to assist landing, proper execution of this task will rest largely on the pilots’ own skill. In such circumstances, the pilots’ skill will also depend on having a good vision of the exterior. In addition to the standard windows found in other aircraft (which number eight in the C-27J), the C-27J’s cockpit also features two extra windows on the upper left and right sides, as well as two other extra windows on the left and right. These windows provide an unrivalled situational awareness during landing, as well as in tactical missions that involve low-altitude flight.
When the C-27J lands on a runway without ground support, it does not need to keep its engines running; because thanks to its auxiliary power unit, the aircraft can activate its own engines.
The C-27J can adjust the height and inclination of its cargo section, which allows it to carry out loading and unloading without the need for ground support equipment.
And There’s More
The features listed until now are some of the C-27J’s advantages for military missions. More proof of the C-27J’s superior performance is the fact that it has been selected for different missions by countries with widely varying geographic conditions. To date, a total of 82 C-27Js have been purchased by a number of different countries: The US (21), Australia (10), Bulgaria (3), Chad (2), Morocco (4), Italy (12), Lithuania (3), Mexico (4), Peru (4), Romania (7), Slovakia (2), Greece (8), and an undisclosed African country (2).
In addition to all types of missions involving transport and the airdrop of paratroopers and materials, the C-27J can also perform search and rescue, ambulance, VIP, close air support (with a 30 mm gun), and reconnaissance-surveillance-intelligence missions. These different versions of the aircraft have not just remained on paper or in demonstrations; they are all either being currently used, or will soon enter into use, in different air forces. Having the FAA and EASA certifications, the C-27J can also fly in civilian airspace.
With all these features that place it ahead of its competitors, the C-27J is ready to meet the requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces and security forces.
The Best Product and Widest Cooperation
The Liaison and the General Utility Aircraft (GMU) Project, the tender notice for which was issued by the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries on June 21, 2016, covers the procurement of aircraft capable of transporting and airdropping both personnel and materials. In this tender, which aims to meet the needs of both the Land Forces Command and of Turkish National Police , the initial stage will involve the procurement of nine aircraft. During IDEF 2017, Leonardo found the opportunity to once again explain first-hand to Turkish officials that the C-27J represents the best answer for the GMU project. The presence of both the A400M and C-130 aircraft in the Turkish Armed Forces’ inventory, the geographical conditions in Turkey and neighbouring regions, and the terrorist organisations’ access to shoulder-fired missiles in nearby region, renders the C-27J’s tactical capabilities even more important for Turkish users. Another plus is Leonardo’s willingness to work closely with the Turkish defence and aerospace industry within the scope of the C-27J procurement. In recent times, Leonardo has worked closely and coherently with the Turkish defence and aerospace industry in programmes such as the T129 ATAK Helicopter, the GÖKTÜRK-1 satellite, and the procurement of the ATR-72 ASW (Anti Submarin Warfare) aircraft under the MELTEM III project. Such previous works are indicative of the potential success promised by the industrial cooperation for the C-27J.
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