C-27Js as MPA?–DOD Declares 38 New Aircraft Surplus


Recent DOD statements indicate they intended to “divest” themselves of 38 C-27J. These are all essentially new twin engine aircraft using the engines and glass cockpit of the C-130J. The USAF just released their Air Force Priorities for a New Strategy with Constrained Budgets. Among the “more than 280 aircraft have been identified in the current budget submission for elimination across all Air Force components over the next five years” are 21 C‐27s. (I believe the remaining 17 aircraft are owned by the Army.)

If the Coast Guard could “missionize” these aircraft as they are doing the HC-144A and use them as Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) instead of buying more HC-144As, the service might save close to a billion dollars and get an aircraft that is more capable in almost every respect, and have them sooner. My understanding is that the Coast Guard originally wanted the CASA C-295 which is very close in specification to the C-27J. In many respects, its capabilities approach those of the C-130H. I think it might be worth a look.

The total “revised baseline” for the MPA program is $2.4B for 36 aircraft. The Coast Guard has accepted or contracted for 15 HC-144s. The fifteenth HC-144A cost $41M. If we assume the CG obtains 21 C-27Js instead of 21 HC-144As and assuming a savings of $40M each, that would be $840M. Enough to buy a new polar icebreaker, or two or three ice strengthened cutters, or perhaps three or four OPCs.

This was originally an Army program, handed over to the Air Force. These aircraft were purchased for infra-theater supply using airfields that were too small for the C-130. That need never really surfaced, C-130s, that they had in abundance, could perform all the supply missions and was more efficient in the cargo transport role. The first C-27J was delivered in 2008. Most were delivered in the last two years.

General characteristics

  • Crew: Minimum two: pilot, co-pilot, (plus loadmaster when needed)
  • Capacity: 60 troops or 46 paratroops or 36 litters with 6 medical personnel
  • Payload: 11,500 kg (25,353 lb)
  • Length: 22.7 m (74 ft 6 in)
  • Wingspan: 28.7 m (94 ft 2 in)
  • Height: 9.64 m (31 ft 8 in)
  • Wing area: 82 m2 (880 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 17,000 kg (37,479 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 30,500 kg (67,241 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprop, 3,460 kW (4,640 hp) each
  • Propellers: 6-bladed Dowty Propeller 391/6-132-F/10, 4.15 m (13 ft 7 in) diameter


  • Maximum speed: 602 km/h (374 mph; 325 kn)
  • Cruising speed: 583 km/h (362 mph; 315 kn)
  • Minimum control speed: 194 km/h; 121 mph (105 kn)
  • Range: 1,852 km (1,151 mi; 1,000 nmi) with 10,000 kilograms (22,000 lb) payload
  • Range at 6,000 kg payload: 4,260 km (2,650 mi; 2,300 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 5,926 km (3,682 mi; 3,200 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 9,144 m (30,000 ft)

Here are the characteristics of the HC-144A for comparison.

  • Airframe Manufacturer: EADS/CASA, Spain
  • Wing Span: 84ft. 8in.
  • Wing Area: 636sq.ft.
  • Height: 26ft. 10in.
  • Length: 70ft. 3in.
  • Max Gross Weight: 36,380 lbs
  • Empty Weight: 21,605 lbs
  • Propulsion: Two General Electric CT7-93C Turboprop
  • Speed: 236 kts
  • Range: 1,565 nm
  • Endurance: 8.7 h
  • Minumum Crew: Two

85 thoughts on “C-27Js as MPA?–DOD Declares 38 New Aircraft Surplus

  1. This almost seems too good to be true if it could indeed be worked out. On the surface it sure seems to be an upgrade from the HC-144A. I think the tricky part would be ensuring that the cost savings be tied into obtaining/funding the additional ships.

  2. I am deployed with the USCG RAID (Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachment) operating out of Kandahar Air Field Afghanistan and can attest that these planes are nearly brand new and very capable. But I also concur with Matt this seems too good to be true.

  3. If it’s too good to be true and if we can iron out the cost & details. Then I would be calling the Air force ASAP to see how much would it cost to transfer the C-27J to the US Coast Guard. The C-27J is almost perfect for the US Coast Guard as a MPA aircraft. You can even add aerial refueling probe to it as well and extend the range, fuel and even time on station. If the US Air force gives 38 C-27J’s to the US Coast Guard How many Air stations can easily trade in their HU-25 Falcon for the C-27J.

    • The coast guard only has 2 operational Falcon units left. It makes no difference about ease of transition. It’s happening wether we like it or not. I’m sure the Air Force even still has “C” schools for the C-27.

  4. Remember that bringing a new platform on board means training, spare parts, and other infrastructure costs along with it. It isn’t like the CG would get free airplanes.

    But because this seems to make perfect sense, it will undoubtedly never happen.

    • I suspect a lot of spare parts and supporting infrastructure has already been bought, but this could be seen as a test of whether the CG is really small, agile, and parsimonious.

      • Though I suspect that we have the same infastructure for the C-130’s as well and can adapt it for the C-27j’s because they have the same common features as the C-130. Some even called the C-27J, the Compact C-130. If the Price is right, then the US Coast Guard Should get their hands on the C-27J.

  5. No thank you, just sell them off, I want the CASA’s. The CASA is specifically designed to fly low and slow for a long time while burning relatively little fuel. It is a huge life-cycle cost savings. Sure the CG could save some money buy I think we would have a less capable asset for the job we use them for and we would probably get screwed on the additional annual funding required to operate them.

    Fuel is going to become a bigger issue over the next twenty years, which is where the CASA HC-144 makes up ground. Since the c-27 has the same engines as the C-130 (I looked it up) one could assume that it has similar fuel curves related to altitude and speed. This makes it good for transport where it can fly fast at high altitudes (what the engines are designed for), but a gas sucking pig when acting as an MPA at low speed/altitude. We are buying aircraft for the mission profile we expect them to fill. The CASA burns 1/10 the fuel of a C-130 and I don’t think the costs of fuel are on a downward trend. I’m sure we can convince someone to buy these or we can mothball them until they are needed.

    With all of that said, it might just happen anyways.

    • Concur, we need to consider life cycle cost. My understanding is that the C-130Js are much more economical than the H model.

      Since there are 38 excess C-27Js and we need only 21 to complete the planned MRS Program, some of the remaining 17, might also be used to replace some of the C-130Hs, since they should use less than half the fuel and come close to the same capabilities. Some of the older C-130s have apparently been around for 30 years.

      The DOD is also stopping the cockpit updates on their C-130s. That may have some impact on Coast Guard plans to update our aircraft.

    • @Desk riding cutterman
      so are you a Tweet Or Mech or none of the above?
      You want the casa ? thats all fine and well do you work on that airframe or on the falcon currently?
      I happen to be a Falcon tweet the HU-25 is an awesome airframe the casa program is a disaster bro that was us scratching spains back for helping in the war on terror. go check out casacrash.com. Scince you aren’t the brown shoe type coastie I’ll fill you in on a little secret the APU on the falcon has more turbine capacity than the T-700 (the engine that is on the H-60) and they are putting th T-700 on an aircraft twice the size of the falcon that airframe is way underpowered oh ya almost forgot we didn’t buy the marine grade engines either so our t-700’s on the puffin are corroding like crazy. they have problems with icing too. It would be awesome to have the cargo capacity that the c-27 offers as well as the speed. our AOR at airsta cape cod goes from ny/nj border to canada to 200+ miles offshore having 2 rolls royce engines on there would make me feel a hell of alot safer 200 miles offshore on a patrol or sar case in the middle of the night. It is also combat proven and you already have all of the pubs flight manual, wiring diagrams, maintenance manual avionics maintenance manual etc. and about fuel the c-27 would burn a hell of alot less fuel than the 130-j you only have 2 instead of 4 engines and the weight is a hell of alot less either way tho 144 or 27 we are gonna be low and slow over the water which is what we do in the falcon too the only time you get up high is when you are traveling to where you are going or if we are looking to do a high orbit on scene to save fuel.

      • I agree and that the C-27J would be perfect for curtain USCG AST’s and their AOR. It would be prefect to replace the HU-25 Falcon and could add some capability such as Medvac flights as well

    • Who is this guy? we should keep the casa over c-27 because of fuel… you have to be kidding me.
      We got the parts and we got the training for this AC and that means years and years of experience from the C-130 maintainers. You cant put a price on experience IMO. not to mention all the other points mention by zack

  6. What is the loiter time? I would be a bit concerned about the 105K minimum control airspeed…but then I’m flying Cessnas and Pipers now, 105 K is close to their cruise speeds.

    Which aircraft is best for binking around at minimum airspeed at 1000′?

  7. Minimum Control Speed is not what you think. In a multi-engine aircraft it refers to the minimum speed necessary for the aircraft to be controllable even if an engine fails. From FAA regulations:
    Sec. 25.149 — Minimum control speed.
    (a) In establishing the minimum control speeds required by this section, the method used to simulate critical engine failure must represent the most critical mode of powerplant failure with respect to controllability expected in service.

    (b) VMCis the calibrated airspeed at which, when the critical engine is suddenly made inoperative, it is possible to maintain control of the airplane with that engine still inoperative and maintain straight flight with an angle of bank of not more than 5 degrees.

    Plus there are additional specific specification: http://www.risingup.com/fars/info/part25-149-FAR.shtml

    Doing a little back of the envelope the HC-144A claims a range of 1,565 nmi and an endurance of 8.7 hours. That equates to 180 knots average. If we used the same average speed for the C-27J to fly 2,300 nmi (which it is claimed to do even with 6,000 pounds of cargo, that would be 12.8 hours endurance. Since the ferry range is reported to be 3,200 nmi, I would expect 12 endurance would be doable on a regular basis–but very hard on a single crew.

    • Max range and max endurance are not flown at the same speeds. For example, the H65 can fly over 3 hours at a max endurance airspeed of 75 knots, but our max range is about 300 nm at 130 knots, which is about 2:20 enroute.

      For a fixed wing aircraft, max range and max endurance change significantly with altitude, so looking at published stats for an aircraft rarely tells the true story about its performance. (It changes for helos, too, but we rarely fly high enough operationally to make a difference.)

      • I know, but I still think it is a safe bet the C-27J can be configured for a max endurance of over 12 hours, and that it equals or exceeds the HC-144A’s endurance in any case.

  8. For desk riding cutterman, it’s all perspective. There was a large push to look at the C-27 after the initial Deepwater contract was awarded and the CASA -295 was the placeholder aircraft in the SoS. The cost and performance of several alternatives was evaluated along with the other issues you discuss. The CG had major concerns with the 295 eventually leading to a revision adapting the 235/HC-144 in place.

  9. I recall the CASA 295ER was considered higher risk due to mods to meet the range and operational requirements in the SoS. There were also issues with the addition of a SAR window and escape hatch in case of turtling after a water ditch.

  10. Gents,

    Casa is a great aircraft for low/slow operations in warm weather climates. The aircraft is slow which means it takes almost double the time to get on scene as a C-130 or even longer compared to the Falcon . In reality that great loiter time is cut down significantly from the advertised 8/hrs max. The C-130/C-27 both have excellent climbing abilities for a turbo prop allowing it to climb high for low fuel burns and higher true airspeeds. Which means great range/long on scene times, there saying is “we run out of flight time before the aircraft runs out of gas”. The C-130 is a proven winner when it comes to completing the MPA mission or long range SAR. All I am saying the aircraft is meant to replace the Falcon not the C-130 so you cant compare the two, its like comparing a MLB(C-130/C-27) to a UTB(Casa/Falcon).

  11. What I would say is the Coast Guard maybe not need the entire fleet but could it not use in an affective way a few of these planes. Maybe on the East Coast or in Florida. More types means more options.

  12. If the CG is smart enough to grab these aircraft, this would be my prediction/hope for the future of CG fixed-wing aviation:

    1) C-27 stations at Cape Cod, E-City, Point Mugu, Astoria. (adverse wx and larger AORs)
    2) HC-144 stations at Miami, Borinquen, Mobile, Corpus (WARM weather, smaller AORs)
    3) C-130s in Clearwater, Kodiak, Hawaii (big water and international missions)

    I’m dreaming about this whole rumor being true like I dream about winning the lottery!

  13. The CG Acquisitions will need to modify the aircraft for sensor operations – this will take some time in an environment where we are spending limited funds on the surface fleet replacement. However, I am sure it will be better to simply have an aircraft which can actually bridge and take load off the aging C-130H fleet which is even today, having to conduct the missions a CASA was slated to do this very week. When an AC of a CASA requests to take off fuel to make a standard short range logistics mission profile and make a climb gradient from a southern unit w/ a long runway,…what the heck are we doing? The CASA is being made to work, but lets face it, we are not the Irish Coast Guard.

  14. C27J seems like it would be the way to go.. A big issue though is having to spend more time and money to “missionize” these things for what we do. They have already figured that out with the 144.

    Another idea is to complete the 144 project and to replace the 130H with the C27. Personally I think replacing the 130H with 130J is unnecessary because they are overkill for what we do.

    I would get all the C144’s they plan to and replace the HU25
    Purchase as many C27’s as possible to replace the C130H
    Purchase 2 more C130J’s so there would be 4 on each coast (or Kodiak) for transporting large loads, super long range missions and even really small loads like picking up an MH65 for transport haha.

  15. Write your congressional representatives. Every one of them is in need of an easy win…..or a win of any sort for that matter.

  16. If we really felt it necessary to minimize the number of aircraft types we could replace all the HC-144s with C-27Js and declare the HC-144s excess property to be sold through FMS. There are certainly plenty of countries that could use them including Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, and Nigeria.

  17. Apparently the Coast Guard is considering this:

    ““[S]ometimes things fall in your laps and if we can get … basically free from the Air Force, we might be able to come up with the plan that would allow us a mix of the [CN-235s], a mix of the C-27s, and, oh by the way, that might put some extra money in our budget that we could devote to some of these other projects,” Papp said March 6”

    (thanks to Lee for the heads up)

    • chuck, just read this in navy times and came over to see if anyone picked up on it. as usual everyone here was right on top of it. wish the old lady would let me use the computin’ machine on weekends. but wouldn’t want the world to end because of bubble drop or whatever her latest game is, hee, hee.

    • I see the US Coast Guard is finally taking advantage of this and something they can use to replace the HU-25 Falcons they retired. Maybe Air stations that retired the HU-25 Falcon can now get the C-27J to compliment the C-130J & HC-144.

      • In most places they will have one or the other. Aviation Training Center Mobile is the only place they are likely to have all types.

      • It would have to be in places where their is adverse weather and a large AOR for the C-27J. On top of that, if we do get the C-27J, we would have to get more aircrews as well. The C-27J is perfect for Cape Cod, E-City, Point Mugu, Astoria. Where they have adverse weather and a large AOR.

  18. THE overiding issue here is that taking the C-27J would SAVE the USCG a lot of aqusition dollars.
    THE big problem with this suggestion is NO ONE knows for sure what the USAF force structure will be in the near future, not even the USAF~ Congressional influence may again be a (unwanted) determinent?

    • What should not be forgotten is that if they go to the Coast Guard, they are still in the US inventory.
      One of the major considerations in the procurement was so that some of them could be available for disaster relief. What could be a better place to have them ready for disaster relief than in the CG in the DHS. We’ve got a track record in disaster response.

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    • I was hoping the story would end by saying, “the aircraft will be flown to Elizabeth city where they will be painted white and joined by 27 other airframes.

  21. The two houses of Congress appear ready to agree on a DOD authorization that may have some impact on the possibility of the Coast Guard getting the use of some of the Air Force’s C-27Js.

    Quoting from the following: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121218/DEFREG02/312180014/Congress-Agrees-631B-Defense-Bill-2013?odyssey=tab|

    “The conferees opted to wade into the murky and sometimes-turbulent stream that has been an Air Force-Army struggle over the C-27J transport aircraft program.

    “The bill would require the Air Force to maintain an additional 32 aircraft to meet intra-theater lift Army needs, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters.

    “The conferees will allow the services to determine whether those aircraft are additional Alenia- made C-27Js or additional Lockheed Martin-made C-130s.

    “Conferees held significant reservations with respect to the Air Force’s plans for maintaining and divesting important assets, specifically equipment and assets in the Air National Guard,” the summary stated. “Conferees found the Air Force’s [C-27J] analysis to be flawed.”

    “The Air Force has pushed to keep control over the Army’s intra-theater airlift needs with an Air Force commander, while the Army wants ground commanders to maintain control so aircraft can be tasked quickly as dictated by the situation on the ground.”

  22. Another mention of the possibility here: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2013/04/10/budget-restricts-navy-marine-surge-capability/

    The cuts have left each service looking to scavenge equipment that others are mothballing to save money, said Vice Adm. John Currier, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard.

    Currier noted that the Air Force was getting rid of its fleet of C27J transport planes and the Coast Guard is “quite willing to take all 21 aircraft if they become available.”

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  24. The C-27J was originally an Army led program for light intra-theater transport, to free up more expensive CH-47s and avoid using up their life when not needed. AF opposed the aircraft because it feels Army doesn’t need to be be in the fixed wing business, AF claims that one as its own. No need for C-27J, Army should just come to AF and ride in its C-130s, even though they couldn’t operate in all the places C-27J could and would be subject to AF policies. Program became a “joint” program under Arrmy management

    As program progressed, it was noted that somehow when AF bought C-27Js they were costing twice what Army was paying for identical aircraft. Solution devised was to put AF in charge of the program!. Not that long afterwards AF announced there was no need for C-27J, Army should just come to AF and ride in its C-130s (which, BTW, are much more expensive to run). C-27J procurement would be terminated at 38 instead of the expected 145, and it would be pulled from USAF and Air National Guard inventory

    It was announced that the finished aircraft would be offered for sale. However, Alenia was now not getting anywhere near the orders they were told to expect, so they did not take kindly to these a/c being offered in competition with Alenia’s own C-27J marketing efforts. So, they announced that they would not provide support to any C-27Js resold from the US, virtually rendering them unsalable. This essentially reduces their worth to scrap value. Providing them to the Coast Guard might be acceptable to Aelnia and if so, would be the best option for the taxpayer to get Something out of this fiasco.

    • Like I said BMC, I think the C-27J is perfect for the USCG and the USCG and put them in Curtain AORs that have large patrol areas such as Astoria, Cape Cod, Hawaii

      • Figuring out where to put them is the easy part. Getting Congress to make a rational and timely decision however….

  25. More developments here: http://www.fiercehomelandsecurity.com/story/c-27j-has-low-fire-retardant-carrying-capacity-says-analysis/2013-08-12

    Includes the statement: “The Forest Service is set to take possession of at least seven C-27Js following a decision by the Air Force to terminate the C-27J program. The Coast Guard is set to take possession of another seven; thereafter, the Forest Service has first right of refusal over another seven of the aircraft.”

    The Coast Guard wants at least 14 to make it viable in terms of supporting an additional type of maritime patrol aircraft. This is the first I had seen that the Forest Service might take more than seven.

    • I read as estimate elsewhere that it would take upwards of 5 years to develop and test a pallet loaded fire fighting system for the C-27.

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  28. Special Operations is getting 7 of the 21 already paid for by the Air Force; that leaves just 14. The Coast Guard says they need at least 14 for the program to be viable, so if the Forest Service gets any, the program is probably dead for the Coast Guard and HC-144s will need to be added back into the budget. Suppose we could actually buy some to fill out the minimums, but may not be worthwhile. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131101/DEFREG02/311010012/US-SOCOM-Get-7-C-27Js-From-USAF

  29. More on the proposed swap. This from a DefenseNews interview with William Lynn, CEO of DRS Technologies and formerly US deputy defense secretary under Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20131209/DEFREG02/312090017/Finmeccanica-Reworks-Strengthen-US-Presence

    “Q. Now that the US C-27s are going to US Special Operations Command, what will happen to the rest of them?

    “A. On the C-27 [cargo plane], I think most of the direct conversation is between the receiving entities in the Pentagon, the Coast Guard, the Forest Service and the special operations community. Right now, two-thirds of them will go to the Coast Guard and the other third will go to the special operations community. The Forest Service will get some Coast Guard C-130s. That is the way I understand. That seems to fit everyone, in that the C-27 is a very well positioned airplane for the Coast Guard mission. It is less well for the Forest Service, which could use a bigger airplane, hence the C-130.”

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