Coast Guard Commandant
Coast Guard Commandant
‘Delighted’ to Get Air Force C-27s
By Claudette Roulo, American
Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– April 9, 2014 – Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp said yesterday he’s
“delighted” to receive 14 of the 21 brand-new C-27J Spartan medium-range
aircraft that were consigned to the boneyard by Air Force budget cuts. "It saves
us about a half a billion dollars in acquisition costs, and we're off and
running the program now,” the admiral said.
U.S. Special Operations Command will receive the remaining
seven aircraft, he said.
Papp said he expects the Coast Guard to be fully using the
aircraft in fiscal year 2016, noting that the delay is due to the need to
qualify instructors and thoroughly train the pilot and maintenance forces.
The aircraft became available last year after declining
budgets forced the Air Force to cancel the program. The cancellation came at a
fortuitous time for the Coast Guard, which was seeking to fill a need for
medium-range fixed wing aircraft, Papp said.
In competition, the C-27J originally lost out to the HC-144
Ocean Sentry due to higher lifecycle costs, the admiral said. The Coast Guard
has purchased 18 HC-144s, he said, noting that he expects to end the program at
18 aircraft. “But then last year, when the Air Force put up these brand-new
C-27J's as excess, we thought, ‘Wow, if we can get 21 for free, that really
lowers the lifecycle cost significantly,’” Papp said.
Part of the cost savings comes from the fact that the
two-engine C-27J uses the same engines and avionics as the four-engine C-130J
Super Hercules, he said, which is slowly replacing the Coast Guard’s fleet of
older C-130H Hercules aircraft. “We have been getting, incrementally, one or two
each budget cycle, and hopefully we'll replace our entire H fleet with J's
sometime in the future,” the admiral said.
The Coast Guard immediately put in a bid to acquire all 21 of
the aircraft, the commandant said. Special Operations Command and the Forest
Service also each initially expressed interest in seven aircraft, he said, but
the Forest Service determined that the C-27J wasn’t large enough to join its
aerial firefighting fleet.
In a deal with the Air Force, the Coast Guard will send seven
of its C-130H aircraft to be overhauled by Air Force technicians for use as
Forest Service tankers, Papp said. The deal nets the Coast Guard a total of 14
C-27J’s — enough to outfit three air stations, he said. “Initially, we really
don't have to do much more than paint them,” he said. “It has all the
communications gear, it has a good surface search radar -- we ultimately will
want to put a sensor package in it very similar to what we use in our HC-144s
and our C-130s, and that we will put in the budget in future years -- but we can
put that aircraft to work almost immediately after we get people trained up on
“Since this is relatively new to us, we're in the process now
of doing an aviation plan,” Papp added. The service is determining how and where
it will allocate its new aviation assets for best effect, he explained.
The Coast Guard always will consider excess military
equipment, the admiral said, but it has to be selective in what it accepts,
particularly as budgets shrink. “A lot of the stuff that's coming back from
theater is well-worn right now,” he said. “We have a history in the Coast Guard
of taking on hand-me-downs, and then they end up costing us a lot of money in
the long run, because they're old and they need repair.”
Sometimes, it's simply too expensive to acquire the equipment,
the commandant noted, or it would mean displacing another still-needed program.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)
Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp
Special Report: FY 2015 Defense Budget Proposal