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Australia invests in avionics upgrades for its C-27J Spartans

RAAF Spartan
A Royal Australian Air Force C-27 Spartan conducts a low fly over during the Gallipoli Barracks Open Day 2022. Photo: Australian defense ministry

The Australian government has signed a contract with Leonardo for the avionics upgrade of the Royal Australian Air Force fleet of C-27J Spartan light tactical fixed wing aircraft.

The A$70 million contract will see Leonardo replace and upgrade existing radio capability, further improving the overall safety and suitability of the C-27J platform.

Head of Aerospace Systems Division, Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Leon Phillips said the C-27J Spartan was an important capability for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

Australia is upgrading the Spartans after redefining their role to include humanitarian disaster relief and crisis response last year.

“Operated by No. 35 Squadron, the C-27J Spartan fleet provides essential transportation and aerial delivery of passengers, troops and cargo, support to search and rescue missions, and aeromedical evacuation in our region,” AVM Leon Phillips said.

“Upgrading the cryptographic radio function of the C-27J platform will ensure ongoing availability of secure communications, including interoperability with key strategic partners and intelligence networks, and increased overall safety for our Australian Defence Force personnel.”

Leonardo was selected to undertake the upgrade as the prime contractor and the original manufacturer of the Spartan. They hold specialist knowledge and the expertise needed to conduct these major modifications to the aircraft.

No. 35 Squadron and Northrop Grumman personnel will modify the C-27J as part of routine maintenance.

The avionics upgrade will begin in September 2023 at RAAF Base Amberley and is due to be completed in 2026.

Australia’s fleet of 10 Spartans has been operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, since the first Spartan arrived in Australia in 2015. The country bought the Spartans to enhance its tactical fixed wing airlift capability, which it had been lacking since the retirement of the Caribou fleet in 2009.

The Spartan can operate from unsurfaced airstrips, and support humanitarian missions in remote locations. Much like the Hercules and Globemaster, the C-27J Spartan can airdrop cargo and paratroops in-flight, airlift a variety of cargo loads, and conduct aeromedical evacuation of sick or wounded personnel.