Friday, December 17, 2010

Bulgaria Changes Its Order for up to 8 C-27J “Baby Hercs”


In February 2006, Finmeccanica announced that its C-27J Spartan (aka. “Baby Herc”), developed as a joint venture between its Alenia Aeronautica subsidiary and Lockheed Martin, had been finalized as Bulgaria’s choice to replace its current fleet of Antonov An-26 “Curl” airlifters. The Bulgarians want up to 8 C-27Js, which share significant commonalities with the C-130J Hercules that extend to most of their avionics and their engines as well as their look.
The “Baby Hercs” will be used for troops and material transport within Bulgaria, and may also participate in NATO operations (Bulgaria has been a NATO member since April 2004) as they are fully compliant with civil and military interoperability standards. The deal was eventually set as 5 C-27Js for EUR 91.8 million… but that has changed.

C-130J Hercules

The C-27J has been ordered so far by the Air Forces of Italy (12) and of Greece (12, in a deal worth EUR 297 million). In the U.S. the aircraft eventually won the JCA (Joint Cargo Aircraft) program to provide local airlift within theater.
In 2006, Finmeccanica noted that the C-27J is also under evaluation by Portugal, “other countries recently become NATO members,” plus Australia (to replace the fantastic but aged DH-4 Caribou), Ireland and Taiwan. In most of these cases, the C-27J is competing with CASA’s C-295. Based on DID’s research, the key tradeoff is that CASA aircraft is more efficient per flight hour and also longer, which gives it the capacity for more standard pallets. On the other hand, the C-27J offers extensive Hercules compatibility, as well as internal dimensions and floor strength levels that let it carry smaller armored vehicles like an M113 inside, or even a prepared OH-58C Kiowa helicopter.
Dec 16/10: Bloomberg News quotes Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, who told reporters in Sofia that Bulgaria will buy 3 C-27Js, instead of 5, with no penalty. The 20% deposit on planes 4 & 5 will be transferred as payment for the 3rd aircraft, which will be delivered in March 2011.
Aug 4/10: Bulgaria’s Sofia News Agency reports that the government recently allocated BGN 256 million (about EUR 131M/ $174M) from the country’s fiscal reserve in order to complete a number of arms deals, lest it find key defense items repossessed.
The country has already received the first 2 C-27Js, and still owes BGN 57.6 million (about EUR 29.5 million). Current Defense Minister Anyu Angelov says that “We are conducting hard talks with the Italians in order to be able to give up the fifth air plane.” Read “Bulgaria’s Finances Squeezing Existing Arms Deals” for more.

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