Poland appears to be attracted to C-27J Next Generation

Leonardo C27J cargo Poland
Leonardo C-27J Next Generation.

According to the latest rumors, Poland appears to be considering the C-27J Next Generation tactical transport aircraft to replace the old fleet of five C-130E Hercules received 'second-hand' from the United States 12 years ago.

The Polish defense appears to be exploring more options, including the procurement of five second-hand C-130Hs (subject to upgrade) and an aircraft with more advanced avionics, more agile and with lower maintenance costs than the Hercules.

Along with the C-130, the Polish Air Force's cargo fleet also includes 16 Airbus C-295s, however, experts say the C-27J is more reliable and capable than Spanish-made aircraft. In addition to having suffered more mishaps [referred to the global fleet], the C-295 has a long and narrow hold capable of accommodating only small cars and not armored vehicles. On the other hand, the Spartan can also carry the well-known Polish Army Humvee vehicle. In addition, the tight space limits the C-295 to drop 80% less load than the C-27J on each flyby.

The Spartan has less capacity than the C-130, but is capable of carrying loads anywhere thanks to the ability to perform short take-offs and landings (STOL) and be refueled in flight.

These capabilities, together with the Defensive Aids Sub-Systems (DASS), secure communications and ballistic protection to operate in high-threat environments, are key to the choice of Poland which frequently deploys the Hercules in overseas operational theaters. It should not be forgotten that a Polish C-130E was severely damaged in Afghanistan. Worth to consider, last but not least, that C-27J appears flexible to reconfiguration as multimission platform, able to satisfy also maritime patrolling/ISR roles through mission systems developed in the Leonardo Electronics perimeter.

From a savings point of view, the C-27J Next Generation has much lower operating costs than the Lockheed cargo aircraft and the transition between the two types for flight and ground personnel is quick and easy due to their great similarity.

“I can bring a pilot from C-130J over to C-27J in six weeks, whereas it probably takes a good five months to train someone from the start or from another aircraft type. The roles are also very similar. Everything from intelligence products, to briefings, to how we conduct business for loadmasters down the back is almost identical,” a RAAF officer said.

Furthermore, Leonardo has strong roots in Poland, since 2010 it is the owner of PZL-Świdnik, the largest Polish helicopter manufacturer with about 160 helicopters operating in the national armed forces, as well as having received orders for 16 advanced M346 trainer jets and 4 AW101 helos. Since 2019 the company has also created the Leonardo Poland branch in the country.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credit: Leonardo

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