In a media release today, Shadow Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston has made a series of assertions about the procurement of the C-27J Spartan Battlefield Airlift aircraft announced by the Government last Thursday.
This stands in stark contrast to his colleague the Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel, Stuart Robert, who stated in the Parliament on Thursday 10 May “…available at a very good price and option, may I commend the Minister for a quick and sound decision. It is a very good capability. The loss of the Caribou was quite a loss in terms of short take-off and landing. The C-27J will add significant capability to our arsenal.”
Let’s put some facts on the table:
In his media release, Senator Johnston stated: “It appears there was no competitive tender process, no rigorous evaluation, and a billion dollar decision has been based on a quick desk top audit.”
The Government agreed to purchase 10 Alenia C-27J Spartan Battlefield Airlift aircraft at an all up cost of $1.4 billion to replace the Caribou aircraft which was retired from service in 2009 after a career spanning more than four decades. The C-27J complements the capabilities of the C-130 and C-17 aircraft and has been widely welcomed by Air Force.
A competitive down selection process to the C-27J was made following an exhaustive assessment by the Department of Defence, the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and Air Force of information provided by the manufacturers of the C-27J and C-295 aircraft.
Information was sought from Alenia (the C-27J manufacturer) and Airbus Military (the C-295 manufacturer) throughout 2011 who were asked to participate in a selection process. Each was asked to provide information on the performance of their aircraft, as well as costing data, in order to enable Defence, the DMO and Air Force to conduct a comparative assessment of each aircraft, including aircraft performance and configuration, against the Australian Defence Force (ADF) requirements.
An equal and same opportunity was given to both Airbus Military and Alenia. The decision to acquire the C-27J was made by the National Security Committee of Cabinet on the recommendation of the Department of Defence, the DMO and Air Force, together with formal advice from central line agencies including Treasury and Finance.
The C-27J flies higher, further, faster and can access more airfields in our area of interest. The C-295 is unable to carry some of the equipment that is vital to support ADF military and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
Senator Johnston also stated: “…there were merits in both the C-27 and the C-295, but at $1.4 billion the C-27 will cost the taxpayer more than twice as much as the C-295…”.
The cost of the C-27J and the C-295 aircraft are comparable.
What Senator Johnston fails to understand and acknowledge is that the $1.4 billion includes not only the acquisition cost of the aircraft, but also the modifications to the aircraft for equipment needed for specific ADF roles, initial logistics support (including spare parts, training, materiel handling equipment, technical data, management fees) testing and certification, and facilities. These costs would apply to any aircraft platform chosen, including the C-295.
Senator Johnston also stated the aircraft “…had already been mothballed by theUnited Statesbecause they were not operationally effective.”
This is not what his colleague the Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel, Stuart Robert says.
The aircraft being acquired byAustraliaare new build aircraft and had not been “mothballed by theUnited Statesbecause they were not operationally effective.”
The 2013 United States President’s Budget affected manyUnited Statesmilitary programs, including terminating the C-27J. TheUnited Statesjustification for this decision was financially driven but based on the rationale that the larger C-130 can perform almost all of the missions envisioned for the C-27J fleet in theUnited Statesairlift fleet. As well, the recently-completed comprehensiveUnited States’ strategic review concluded that its airlift fleet could be reduced by the termination of the C?27J.
In contrast to theUnited States,Australiahas had a gap in its intra-theatre airlift capability since the retirement of the Caribou.
Senator Johnston also makes the generalised assertion that: “In the eyes of just about every other air force around the world the C?295 is not only considered to be the best value for money but also the most effective battlefield airlifter.”
This is not a view shared by the Chief of Air Force or the RAAF.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392