By Kate Brannen of the Army Times
The Joint Cargo Aircraft C-27J program was restructured more than a year ago, but Congress is still raising questions about the Pentagon’s plans to reduce the number of aircraft and transfer the joint program and the mission it supports solely to the Air Force.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the secretaries of the Army and the Air Force, Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Christopher Bond, R-Mo., recommend the Pentagon buy more C-27Js in coming years. The senators serve as co-chairmen of the Senate National Guard Caucus.
In last year’s budget, the Pentagon reduced the total planned C-27J purchase from 78 aircraft to 38. It also took the “joint” out of Joint Cargo Aircraft by making the program solely Air Force, rather than Army-Air Force. The mission for which the aircraft was intended — time-sensitive cargo delivery — also shifted to the Air Force.
“The reduction in the total C-27 program presents challenges both for the future of Defense Department air mobility as well as personnel in the Army who have been trained to fly the airplanes,” the senators write.
In the Army, the C-27J was intended to replace the service’s fleet of C-23 Sherpa aircraft. The planes still fly missions in Iraq, but are unable to fly in Afghanistan because they are not pressurized. The Army is still determining its schedule for divesting its fleet of C-23s now that it is not getting the C-27J.
Bond and Leahy ask what the Pentagon plans to do with the C-23s.
“Will the C-27 and C-23 serve side-by-side?” the senators ask. “If the latter, what analysis led the Department to conclude that the C-23, once judged obsolete, is an airframe worthy of retaining in the force in lieu of purchasing new C-27s?”
The two senators also want to know what the Pentagon plans to do with the Army personnel who have been trained to support the C-27J mission.
Following approval of the 2010 budget, the Air Force was required by law to submit a report outlining its plans for the C-27J program. In that report, the Air Force said a specific plan of action regarding the personnel issue had not yet been developed.
“The [Air National Guard] welcomes any Army personnel to apply for transition to [Air National Guard] positions, and we do anticipate that [Army National Guard] will non-concur on any transfer action,” the Air Force report said.
Bond and Leahy want more information on the Air Force’s plan.
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