The congressional directive to keep 32 additional airlifters the Air Force planned to cut will not save the C-27J program, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Jan. 11. Above, a C-27J lands in Fargo, N.D. (Defense Department)
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The congressional directive to keep 32 additional airlifters the Air Force planned to cut will not save the C-27J program, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Friday.
The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved last month, directed the Air Force to form a working group to add 32 more strategic airlifters to the currently authorized fleet. The bill gave the Air Force the freedom to decide the mix of C-130s and C-27Js in the group, and Donley said the service plans to move forward without the short-lived airlifter.
"I do not anticipate that we're going to change our position on the president's fiscal year 2013 budget to terminate the C-27 program," Donley said. "I don't think we're going to revisit that."
The president's budget proposal called for cutting the aircraft, with Air Force officials saying the limited mission set for the smaller strategic airlifter is not needed in tough fiscal times. Former Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Congress last spring that keeping the service's 38 C-27Js would force the Air Force to cut $1.4 billion from other missions. The C-27J is flown exclusively by Air National Guard. The first was delivered in September 2010, with the first deployment in July 2011.
The fleet was briefly grounded in July after an Ohio Air National Guard aircraft experienced a mechanical failure in its flight controls during a training sortie.
Donley said the Intratheater Airlift Working Group will decide which planes will fill the 32 spots directed by Congress. Donley did not provide information on which C-130 variants would be used or where they would be based.
"We're focused in this group mostly on what to do with additional aircraft authorized by Congress and we're developing courses of action appropriately to address that," Donley told reporters.
Last summer, the Maryland Air National Guard finished the final deployment of the C-27Js to Afghanistan, with future deployment plans canceled as the Air Force pressed to end the program. In November, the squadron used its C-27Js to help deliver supplies to assist in the Superstorm Sandy relief effort.