Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who needs a little cargo plane?

They call it C-27, it's a small transport, that looks like a twin engine version of the old reliable C-130. It is a 10,000 pounds of cargo aircraft, considerably smaller than the 40,000 pounds of cargo C-130. Range and airspeed are about the same. Short field capability (important to supplying troops in the field) is hard to judge. Somewhere on the web the C27 claims to operate off 580 meter (1500 foot) runway and the C-130 claims 660 meters (2000 feet). However there are pictures on the web showing a C-130 landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier, and those are only 1000 foot long. Apparently the Navy considered using the c-130 for carrier on board delivery (COD). Testing showed it was possible, but the C-130's wing only cleared the carrier's island by 15 feet, which is pretty hairy. The Navy went ahead and developed a special COD aircraft to reduce the pucker factor on their fliers. Price for the smaller aircraft is supposed to be $37.4 million whereas you can have a brand new C-130J for $50 million. In short 30% more dollars gets you a plane that carries four times as much. The only real justification for the smaller aircraft is better maneuverability. I remember flying down valleys in the old twin engine C-123 and the thought of doing it in the much bigger C-130 is kinda scary.
A Pentagon plan (not yet funded or even approved) would buy 78 C27's, give 54 to the Army and 24 to the Air Force. You wonder why they don't just give all of them to the Army. A single squadron of 24 unique aircraft doesn't make sense. Any aircraft worth owning is worth owning in quantity. Doing all the special training, both air crew and mechanics and buying all the special ground support equipment doesn't make sense for just a handful of aircraft.

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