Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, and Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, today announced steps the Government has taken to acquire a replacement aircraft for the DHC4 Caribou transport aircraft under Defence Capability Plan project AIR 8000 Phase 2
Since the retirement of the Caribou fleet in 2009, Australia has had a military capability gap of fixed wing battlefield tactical airlift.
The Caribou was capable of delivering personnel, vehicles and other equipment into austere and short airfields.
The capability gap has to date been partially met by the C-130J and C-130H Hercules aircraft, the Interim Light Transport aircraft (8 small Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft) and helicopters.
The C-130H is due to retire in 2013, although Defence is developing a proposal to retain these aircraft until 2016.
AIR 8000 Phase 2 will replace the Caribou transport aircraft to provide a Battlefield Airlifter capability with up to ten light tactical fixed wing aircraft.
Defence analysis has confirmed that the C-27J Spartan is an aircraft that could meet Australia’s battlefield tactical airlift capability need. This aircraft is operated by the US Air National Guard, which has a planned total fleet of 38 aircraft.
Due to the pending closure of the production line for US Air National Guard aircraft the Government has authorised Defence to issue a non-binding/no-commitment Letter of Request seeking price and availability information on the C-27J.
The issuing of a Letter of Request does not involve any financial or contractual commitment on Australia to acquire the aircraft.
The information from the Letter of Request will inform Government consideration of capability, cost and schedule issues associated with this project as well as consideration of the acquisition strategy, including whether a broader tender process will be pursued.
Future Government consideration of this project will involve consideration of other aircraft which could meet Australia’s need. This includes the Airbus Military C-295 aircraft.
Defence anticipates receiving a response to the Letter of Request by February 2012.
Careful consideration of all the options will then proceed.