Guardmembers see delivery of first Joint Cargo Aircraft
October 16, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Oct. 16, 2008) - The U.S. Army's first Joint Cargo Aircraft was delivered by L-3 Integrated Systems in a ceremony Wednesday at a facilities hangar in Waco, Texas.
More than 150 servicemembers and L-3 and Alenia Aeronautica employees witnessed the first C-27J Spartan ceremoniously delivered to the military.
"All the adjutants general are extremely supportive, and obviously excited about getting this capability to support the states and the global war on terror," said Army Brig. Gen. Alberto Jimenez, Maryland's assistant adjutant general who attended the delivery ceremony as a special assistant to Army Guard director, Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn.
"[General Vaughn] is extremely pleased about the Guard getting the very first aircraft. We have been waiting to provide this awesome capability," Jimenez said.
Officials said the first JCA will be used to train initial aircrews. The Army National Guard will take possession of it after several production and quality tests and assign it to the Georgia Guard.
In June 2007, the Army awarded a more-than-$2-billion contract to L-3 to provide 78 JCAs to the military, which includes training and logistics support; four JCAs are currently on contract, and the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, recently signed by President Bush, authorizes seven JCAs for the Army.
Officials said current plans call for the Army Guard to receive an estimated 40 JCAs between now and 2015. Other plans also call for the Air Force to acquire up to 24 JCAs for the Air National Guard, commonly referred to as a "bridge mission" for several Air Guard wings transitioning into new missions after the Base Realignment and Closure changes.
Officials said the JCA brings new and unique transport capabilities to the war fighter, including short field takeoffs and landings, increased payload capacity - four times that of the Army's C-23 Sherpa transport aircraft - increased air speed and complete interior pressurization. The aircraft is also capable of handling standard Air Force cargo pallets.
"That is just absolutely superior, not only to support the ongoing war fight - since that capability is a great improvement over the C-23 - but it will also bring a capability in the continental United States to move Soldiers and cargo rapidly in support of any disaster missions," said Jimenez.
The first delivered JCA now undergoes production and quality testing at various locations across the U.S. That testing, said officials, will confirm the performance of the aircraft as well as field U.S.-specific military equipment including radios, avionics and defensive systems.
A joint team of test pilots from the Army's Technical Test Center and the Air Force's Air Mobility Command are scheduled to fly the aircraft through its initial military tests.
"It's a whole round of testing that goes on using Army, Navy and Air Force facilities," said Army Maj. John Boyer, a Guard JCA program manager. Boyer added that multi-service tests and evaluations are then scheduled to be conducted by field units, including the Georgia Army Guard's 171st Aviation Regiment.
The initial training will be provided by JCA manufacturer, Alenia Aeronautica. Initial classes are scheduled at the L-3 facility in Waco, and classes will move to Warner-Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Guard officials said a final training plan will be determined at a later time.
Scheduled tests will ensure that air crew training programs produce combat ready air crews. The aircraft will then be turned over to the Guard in April 2010.
"The program is moving forward on-schedule and on-cost," Boyer said.
The Army National Guard is planning to have the first JCA unit ready for deployment by late 2010. An official stationing and deployment schedule as well as a unit makeup have not been determined.
(Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves with the National Guard Bureau.)