I read yesterday the following article from Aviation Week & Space Technology: “U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Aircraft May Fall To Cuts“. Part of the article stated the obvious, that the Coast Guard modernization programs may fall also victims of the budgetary pressures faced elsewhere in the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security. However, the following passage caught my attention:
“While the results of the portfolio review, started in April, remain to be seen, the Coast Guard has not given up on gaining new equipment. Obama administration officials are looking at transferring at least 14 newly built Finmeccanica C-27J transports from the Air Force, which has controversially declared them “excess” to its needs. As CRS reported, if the Coast Guard were to receive 14 or more C-27s, it could stop procurement of EADS HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) at the halfway point, with 18 aircraft, saving $887 million.”
I was amazed, since:
- as the article reflected, the US Coast Guard had selected the HC-144A (based on Airbus Military CN-235 aircraft plus the Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS)) as the “Acquisition Program of the Year“, as announced last June.
- already in 2010, the US Coast Guard decided to place orders for the HC-144A aircraft directly to EADS by-passing the former lead systems integrator Integrated Coast Guard Systems which first contracted to Lockheed Martin for which EADS acted as a subcontractor.
The rationale behind was the potential saving of up to 800M$ in acquisition costs (not buying the remaining 18 out of 36 aircraft which originally made up the Deepwater program) and getting some 14 C-27J instead…
- as if there was a single C-27J operated as a Maritime Patrol Aircraft in the World (there is none),
- as if the “excess” transport C-27J aircraft coming from the Us Air Force were already equipped with the above-mentioned FITS (which they are not, and the cost of this integration would be nothing close to the recurring cost for the HC-144A that the USCG now acquires as there would be an inherent non-recurring cost to integrate the systems package into a new platform),
- as if the C-27J shared the same logistic systems and chain as the already acquired 18 HC-144A (which it doesn’t),
- as if the C-27 was not a platform that had been three times discarded by the US Air Force:
- firstly were the C27A, briefly operated in Panama (only from 1990 to 1999!) and shortly after were left to rest forever in the desert,
- secondly this infamous Joint Cargo Aircraft program, which initially called for 145 aircraft, later reduced to 78, then to 38, of which only 21 had been acquired by the Air Force (by then the program was not joint anymore) at the time of the cancellation of the entire program… declared as not cost-effective in comparison to the C-130J Hercules aircraft, and,
- finally the same C-27As (or G-222s) which were donated to Afghanistan only to be scrapped a few years afterwards (after a good spending of 600M$ in that infamous program!)
If I were an US Congressman looking for savings across the US Armed Services, I would have it clear: instead of interfering with sound acquisition programs, I would simply get those C-27Js already acquired, send a couple of them to museums and the rest to The Boneyard in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, to lay there forever close to their older brothers the C-27As and avoid any cost-ineffective operating and maintenance expenses on them…