Tactical transport with C-27J ‘Spartan’

A C-27J ‘Spartan’ tactical transport aircraft from No 35 Squadron takes off from Walcha Airport during training, operating from unsurfaced airstrips. (Defence)

The past year has been an important period in the developing capabilities of the Royal Australian Air Force’s C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifter. The tenth and final aircraft was delivered to Australia in April 2018 and since that time Air Mobility Group and 35 Squadron, the operators of the aircraft, have begun exploring its tactical capabilities further, as they continue on the trajectory towards Final Operational Capability (FOC) at the end of this year.

During 2018 the Spartan was deployed on three major exercises which culminated in sustained operations from an austere airfield 3,000 kilometres (1,620 nautical miles) from its main operating base. Innovative tasking methods were also developed during the course of the year, to the point where the aircraft can be routinely tasked by the customer themselves in the field– mostly Army and Special Operations units. This removes the burden or delay of requesting battlefield airlift through a centralised air tasking organisation located perhaps thousands of kilometres away.

If this wasn’t enough work for the year, 35 Squadron was also asked to contribute to Operation Resolute, Australia’s border surveillance operations, turning the Spartan into a surveillance platform with increased Search and Rescue capabilities. And to top it all off, the squadron permanently relocated from Richmond to Amberley over the Christmas break, moving 225 families (with the assistance of Defence Housing Australia) and 500,000 pounds (227 tonnes) of cargo in the process. And 2019 has already begun in the same vein with the first overseas deployment set to occur in February, as 35 Squadron contributes to the annual multi-lateral Cope North exercise on Guam.

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