Afghan Air Force welcomes cancellation of C-27 purchase
It has emerged that the ongoing process to equip the Afghan Air Force with Italian made C-27A tactical transport aircraft will be terminated.
US Department of Defense officials announced in mid-December that a contract to maintain and support 20 refurbished C-27s for the Afghan military would not be renewed when it expires in March.
Failure by prime contractor Alenia North America to meet the requirements of the contract was cited as the main reason leading to its cancellation.
The Afghan ministry of defence welcomed the termination of the contract as the majority of the transport aircraft were unserviceable and stood idle on the ramp of Kabul International Airport.
A lack of equipment, spare parts and technical documentation has hampered the Afghan C-27 program from the beginning. The entire fleet was grounded intermittently during the period from December 2011 through May 2012 and only four to five aircraft were serviceable out of sixteen delivered by late 2012. The cargo aircraft were said to be prone to fuel leaks, landing gear problems and engine failure. Widespread cannibalization of spare parts further compounded the problems.
Despite all challenges, an all-Afghan aircrew of the Kabul Air Wing conducted its first independent mission with the C-27 on 19 June 2012 under auspices of the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, part of the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan.
In September 2008 a $287 million fixed-price contract was awarded to Alenia to provide the then Afghan National Army Air Corps with 18 former Italian air force G222 twin turboprop transport aircraft.
The aircraft were overhauled at Alenia’s facilities at Capodichino airport near Napels, Italy and the first refurbished G222 returned to flight on 30 July 2009. Deliveries to the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan in Kabul, which is in charge of the rebuilding of the Afghan Air Force, commenced two months later, with the first aircraft being handed over in September 2009.
Two more aircraft were added to the contract in September 2010. The last aircraft should have been handed over in late 2011 but this proved to be not feasible.
The Italian air force withdrew its last remaining G222 transport aircraft in 2005 when its new C-27Js started to enter service. Never a forgiving aircraft from a maintainer’s viewpoint, serviceability problems with the G222 already surfaced during its service life with the air transport unit of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana. Numerous operational aircraft were often seen on the flight ramp at Pisa missing essential equipment as early as the mid-1990s.
The cancellation is another setback to the US exit strategy of building capable and self-sufficient Afghan security forces which can take over from US and international troops leaving the country.
Source: N by Pieter Bastiaans in Breda (shephardmedia.com) News - 15 January 2013
Photo: The Afghan Air Force with Italian made C-27A Tactical Transport Aircraft (Photo by shephardmedia)