One report from April 2006 said:
Now that the U.S. Army and Air Force have issued a new request for proposals (RFP) for the Future Cargo Aircraft program, both services say they are optimistic that joint development of the light cargo airplane will lead to cost savings and an end product to fit the needs of both entities. The services also believe that there could be more than two contenders to build the light cargo plane when everything is said and done.
The Army and Air Force view FCA, soon to be renamed the Joint Cargo Aircraft program, as a new fixed-wing transport aircraft capable of performing rapid-response intratheater missions with cargo, equipment and soldiers, as well as medevac duties and airdrop delivery. The new aircraft would replace the Army’s 43 Sherpa planes and ease the Air Force’s reliance on the C-130, its workhorse intratheater cargo plane. It would also expand the military’s ability to ferry cargo and troops to remote places because they would be able to land on runways of just 2,000 feet, opening access to more than 6,000 additional runways around the world.
The Army and Air Force agreed to a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 30, 2006, to jointly develop a FCA aircraft, and are working out details of a formal joint agreement on the development of the fixed-wing plane, according to Army officials. The services released the new RFP this past month. Final proposals are due May 17, with a contractor award expected in November 2006. . . . There has been some speculation that the Army intends to initially buy 75 of the FCA aircrafts and that the Air Force intends to purchase 70. . . . So far, only two European companies have said they will compete for the $1.3 billion program. French-German group EADS CASA North America is teamed with Raytheon to offer either the C-235, C-295 or a mixture of both for the competition. Global Military Systems, a joint venture of L-3 Communications and Italy’s Alenia, is offering the C-27J Spartan. The services hope to pick a winning bid in early December 2006, with an eye to fielding the first plane in 2008, according to program officials. . .
The C-27J is an upgraded version of the Alenia G.222, which was developed by Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems.
The C-27J can carry a maximum payload of 25,353 pounds and has a fuel capacity of 3,255 gallons. It has a maximum cruise speed of 325 knots true airspeed and a range of about 1,000 nautical miles when it is close to payload weight limit. At half its weight capacity, the aircraft has a range of about 2,300 nautical miles The engine for the C-27J will use Rolls Royce AE 2100-D2 engines, which produce 4,637 shaft horsepower each. . . .
EADS and Raytheon, now referring to themselves as Team JCA, believe that the C-295 or CN-235 would best meet the needs of the services for a small, workhorse intratheater aircraft.
The CN-235 carries about 13,000 pounds of cargo, while the C-295, which is 10.2 feet longer, carries about 19,800 pounds. The CN-235 is also in production for the Coast Guard’s Deepwater System, which is designed to replace its aging ships and aircraft. The C-295 can carry 79 troops or 49 paratroopers, and has a maximum operating speed of 260 knots true airspeed. The C-295 also has a range of about 2,300 nautical miles while carrying about 10,000 pounds of payload. It has two Pratt & Whitney PW127G engines generating 2,645 shaft horsepower.
The article came in the wake of an Air Force press release at the end of March 2006.
A winner of a bid to buy 78 Joint Cargo Aircraft units for $2 billion was announced last month, it was the C-27J. More details here and here. The later link notes that: The per unit cost is a reasonably low for military aircraft $26 million.
C-27J Named as Joint Cargo Aircraft
Army News Service | Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle | June 20, 2007
The U. S. Army announced a $2.04 billion contract award June 13 to L-3 Communications Integrated Systems for their C-27J Spartan to be the Joint Cargo Aircraft.
This JCA program is a combined Air Force and Army effort to have an airframe that will meet warfighter needs for intratheater airlift.
"This is a great day for all of us." said Maj. Gen. Marshall K. Sabol, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Air, Space and Information Operations, Plans and Requirements. "We've been working hard together with the Army on all the requirements, and we've come up with a joint airplane, the same airplane, working on the same mission."
Army and Air Force leaders said the JCA will bring advantages to both services and also assist in the recapitalization efforts of both services.
"We have old aircraft that are not designed to operate at the loads or altitudes we operate in today," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Mundt, director of Army Aviation. "This airframe allows us to get to the altitude we need and (carry the) standardized (cargo) pallets that both services use."
General Sabol relayed some personal experience from Iraq as to why the JCA is needed.
The Air Force flew C-130 Hercules aircraft many times in Iraq, carrying just a few passengers or a single pallet of medical goods, because that is what the warfighters needed at that moment, he said. This is not a very efficient use of an aircraft, but the warfighters' needs come first.
This underutilization of the cargo area in a C-130 is a main reason the JCA was developed. The C-130 and the Army's C-12, C-26 and C-23 do not efficiently satisfy the requirements for the warfighter, the joint leaders said.
Rumor has it that the Army and Air Force disagreed about which of the two main contenders for the contract should get it, and the larger Air Force choice won.
According to Wikipedia the turboprop plane has the following characteristics:
Crew: Three - pilot, co-pilot, loadmaster
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: 9.6 m (31 ft 8 in)
Wing area: 82 m² (882.7 ft²)
Empty weight: 17,000 kg (37,479 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 31,800 kg (66,138 lb)
Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Allison AE2100-D2 turboprop, 3,460 kW (4,637 shp) each
Maximum speed: 602 km/h (325 kts, mph)
Range: 4,630 km, 1,852 full load (2,300 miles, 1000 full load)
Service ceiling: 9,144 m (30,000 ft)
This is between half and two-thirds the capacity of the C-130 in cargo with a comparable speed and range, and calls for half the crew.
For comparison purposes the C-130H has the following characteristics:
Crew: 4-6: at least 2 pilots,1 flight engineer (eliminated in the J variant, replaced by crew chief), and 1 loadmaster; additional loadmaster and navigator are usually part of the crew
92 passengers or
64 airborne troops or
74 litter patients with 2 medical personnel
Payload: 45,000 lb (20,000 kg) including 2-3 Humvees or an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier
Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.8 m)
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)
Height: 38 ft 3 in (11.6 m)
Wing area: 1,745 ft² (162.1 m²)
Empty weight: 83,000 lb (38,000 kg)
Useful load: 72,000 lb (33,000 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 155,000 lb (70,300 kg)
Powerplant: 4× Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, 4,300 shp (3,210 kW) each
Maximum speed: 329 knots (379 mph, 610 km/h)
Cruise speed: 292 knots (336 mph, 540 km/h)
Range: 2,050 nm (2,360 mi, 3,800 km)
Service ceiling: 33,000 ft (10,000 m)
This source says a C-130 needs a 5,000 foot runway (citing the Congressional Research Service), while the C-27J will need 2,500 feet. [Other sources have mentioned 3,600 feet for the C-130 and 2000 feet for the C-27J.] The means that: “in South America and Central America . . . C-130s can operate from approximately 5 percent of all airstrips (540 of the 10,400 airstrips). In Africa, the C-130 can land on approximately 15 percent of all airstrips[.]”
By comparison the largest U.S. military helicopters designed for medium and heavy lift purposes carry similar or smaller loads at less than half the speed and for considerable shorter ranges (but, of course, don't need airstrips at all):
The CH-47 Chinook, introduced in 1961, is the Army's tandem rotor heavy lift helicopter. It carries up to 44 troops (an Army platoon) or about 19,000 pounds of cargo. It has a speed of 136 miles per hour and a range of about 300 miles. The most urgent concern of Army planners looking at future helicopter purchases (or some replacement for helicopters) is the aging Chinook fleet. . . .
The CH-46 Sea Knight is a tandem rotor medium lift helicopter used primarily by the Marines, introduced in 1964. It can hold about 6,000 pounds of cargo or about 25 fully equipped troops. The Marines hope to replace this with the V-22 Osprey tilt wing aircraft (which would have both fixed wing and helicopter modes) in the future.
The CH-53 Sea Stallion (a later version is known as the Super Stallion) is the heaviest lift helicopter used in the U.S. military and entered service in 1962. It has a single rotor. It can carry up to 16 tons of cargo or up to 55 troops. Current plans call for the Marines to continue using upgraded versions of this helicopter for heavy lift purposes for the foreseeable future.
The CH-46 Sea Knight has a range of 132 nautical miles and speed of 145 knots. The CH-53 Sea Stallion has a 480 nautical mile range and 150 knot speed.
The Army is buying new CH-47 helicopters at about $32 million each, about $6 million per unit more than the cost of the C-27J. A C-130J costs about $67 million each (and the Air Force is struggling to keep the price that low).
The V-22 Osprey, according to Wikipedia, also has a smaller payload, shorter range and slower speed than the C-27J, although it is superior in those respects to most helicopters, and cost $85 million each (exclusive of R&D costs):
Crew: two pilots;
Capacity: 24 troops (seated), 32 troops (floor loaded) or 10,000 pounds of cargo
Length: 57 ft 4 in (17.5 m)
Rotor diameter: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
Wingspan: 46 ft (14 m); 84 ft 7 in (including rotors))
Height: 22 ft 1 in (overall - nacalles vertical) (17 ft 11 in 5.5 m (at top of tailfins))
Disc area: 2,268 ft² (212 m²)
Wing area: 301.4 ft² (28 m²))
Empty weight: 33,140 ;lb (15,032 kg)
Loaded weight: 47,500 ;lb (21,500 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 60,500 lb (27,400 kg)
Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Allison Rolls-Royce T406 (AE 1107C-Liberty) turboshafts, 6,150 hp (4,590 kW) each
Maximum speed: 275 knots (316 mph, 509 km/h)
Cruise speed: 214 knots (246 mph, 396 km/h) at sea level
Combat radius: 370 nm (430 mi, 690 km)
Ferry range: 2,417 nm (2,781 mi, 4,476 ;km)
Unrefueled range: 879 nm (1,011 mi, 1,627 km)
Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,925 m)
In short, right now the C-27J looks like one of the smartest purchases the U.S. military has made in a long time, but time will tell if the program stays on time and on budget.