The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will acquire through an intra-service transfer 14 Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartans that the U.S. Air Force planned to store. Congress directed the transfer in the Fiscal Year 2014 defense authorization bill, which President Obama signed on December 26.
The Department of Defense transfer “without reimbursement” to the Department of Homeland Security, the USCG’s parent agency, takes care of the remainder of the 21 C-27Js that the Air Force received but sought to retire to cut costs. In October, the Pentagon assigned seven of the airlifters to the Special Operations Command.
In a press release announcing the transfer, Alenia Aermacchi said initial flight operations by the USCG will begin within six to 12 months. The service will use the C-27J for medium-range surveillance missions, including maritime patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response and search and rescue. “The company also anticipates the USCG will immediately begin the process for expanding the C-27J’s capabilities with tailored mission kits to include surface-search radars, electro-optical sensors and mission suites installed on all 14 planes,” the Italian manufacturer said.
C-27Js will supplement 18 Airbus North America HC-144A Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft that the USCG ordered under its $24 billion “Deepwater” fleet modernization program. The service declared initial operational capability in 2009 of the medium-range surveillance aircraft, a version of the CN235-300M twin-turboprop. Ocean Sentries operate from Coast Guard Air Stations in Mobile, Ala.; Cape Cod, Mass.; and Miami.
As of June last year, the Airbus Defence and Space factory in Seville, Spain, had delivered 15 Ocean Sentries; three more deliveries are planned this year, according to the USCG. The service originally planned to acquire 36 HC-144As, but that total may be reduced because of the imminent arrival of the C-27Js.