Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA)
What is it? The Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) is a Joint Program led by the Army. The mission of the JCA is to provide the Joint Force Commander with fixed wing direct support in pursuit of strategic, operational, and tactical objectives in this era of persistent conflict. The United States Army will significantly contribute to this mission by using the JCA in its service-unique requirement to provide the "final handoff" of personnel, and time sensitive, mission critical supplies such as food, water, repair parts and ammunition directly to Army units. This is not a "force structure" issue. The JCA is simply replacing the C-23, C-26 and C-12. In short, the JCA flies "the last tactical mile" to places the C-130 would not go and moves cargo that the C-23, C-26 and C-12 are ill-equipped to carry.
What has the Army done? For the past year, the Army, as the lead agency, has successfully managed this Joint program. The Army has defined all of its program requirements, established funding and fully developed its fielding plans through the Joint Requirements process. The Army's work culminated in a Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) Memorandum signed by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff which led to the signing the Acquisition Decision Memorandum by the Director, Acquisition Executive (DAE)-Office, Secretary of Defense (OSD). Because the program is currently Army-led, the testing is scheduled around Army processes, procedures, and resources. The Army MUST remain the lead of this vital program. A change in service lead, at this point, will require a significant reprogramming of acquisition and test activities and necessitate a major time consuming update to all documentation. This is a delay the Army and country can not afford with thousands of America's young men and women currently on battlefields across the globe.
What continuing efforts does the Army have planned? To meet the challenges of the world's premier expeditionary force the Army must remain the lead agency of the JCA program. The Army will get 54 of the 78 planes under the current contract. The Army plans to accept delivery of the first JCA's for testing in 2008. The First Unit Equipped for the Army is scheduled for 2010. The desired outcome of this airframe is to serve Soldiers in the new modular configuration with agile, flexible, deployable and sustainable aviation units across the full range of military operations.
Why is this important to the Army? Today's enemy tactics combined with austere operating environments have invigorated the need for a more capable, smaller aircraft in the Army inventory. If the JCA program is to significantly aid in the full spectrum of joint operations, including natural disaster relief operations and homeland defense it is vital the JCA program remain a Joint program. The JCA will be fielded exclusively to the Reserve Components and be available for federal and state missions alike. The JCA supports sustaining the Army in "The Last Tactical Mile" delivering items such as bulk food, fuel, medical equipment and supplies, and extracting wounded warriors. An additional benefit provided by the addition of the JCA to the Army fleet will be the ability to free up the Army's CH-47 Chinook helicopters to conduct their primary mission of tactical troop transport on the battlefield.