When I went up to McClellan for the firefighting conference, I got to see the HC-27J airframes that had been transferred to the Coast Guard. They will replace the C-130 airframes that they have been using. I posted about that airframe in this post. I was recently staying back up in the area so decided to see what was happening at the field. The Coast Guard has now started repainting the airframes so now they are showing up in their own colors rather than being in the grayness which they were transferred. There was also a C-130 parked up. It didn’t look too active. I assume it will be heading off for firefighting conversion soon.
Defense acquisition programs are not renowned for being the most efficient and sensible programs. Selection of products and suppliers is heavily influenced by politics and locations along with the technical capabilities. Some programs have momentum due to their joint use nature. This doesn’t always mean that the departments involved actually like them. Such is the case of the Alenia C-27J Spartan. Based on the older G222 airframe but updated with the same engines as the C-130J, the aircraft was selected for the Joint Cargo Aircraft program between the USAF and the Army.
Eventually, control of the program was moved from the Army to an Air Force only program. Meanwhile, the Air Force was not showing a lot of love for the aircraft. They had other programs they were more interested in. The result was that aircraft started getting delivered to storage and the Air Force was looking for a way out. That way is the Coast Guard. These aircraft will replace some old C-130s in Coast Guard service and the displaced aircraft will go for firefighting duties. The Coast Guard station at Sacramento has received its first aircraft. I saw one of them head out on a training flight while another could be seen in the hangar. Apparently, they will soon be repainted in Coast Guard colors and the 130s will start to head off to their new life. It will probably be unusual in due course to have a C-27J in Coast Guard markings but in the gray color scheme.
Russian airliner development has not been a terribly successful area for the last couple of decades. While Tupolev produced a huge number of 134 and 154 jets, by the time the 80s and 90s came around, things had got far less productive. The Ilyushin 86 and 96 were not successes and the TU204 has struggled throughout its time in production despite various efforts at upgrading it. Sukhoi made an effort to break this cycle by partnering with Alenia to create the Sukhoi Superjet.
This 90-100 seat jet makes use of western systems and powerplants co-developed with SNECMA of France to try and come up with a modern technology airliner. The Alenia tie in is intended to provide a support network that will appeal to western airlines while having a production cost base the delivers a plane at a price that is hard to beat. The result has not been stellar. Western customers have been hard to come by. Interjet in Mexico is the only current operator and it is happy by all accounts. VLM has discussed taking the planes but apparently the delivery schedules are proving problematic. Far east campaigns were more promising but the crash of an aircraft on a demonstration flight in Indonesia killing a lot of customers and officials has tainted the reputation. Even in Russia things have been tricky with customers returning aircraft due to poor performance.
Having a problem with deliveries is an ongoing issue and the number of aircraft that have come out of the plant is well below the projections Sukhoi originally gave. I have only seen one example so far. This one made a brief appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford a few years back when I was there. Interjet flies theirs to the US but not anywhere near me at the moment. Hopefully that will change soon because I would like to see more of this jet.