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Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) Facing Uncertain Future

The C-27J Spartan is a twin engined light transport aircraft purchased for the U.S. Air Force from a team made up of L-3 Communications (LLL) and Alenia North America, part of the Italian defence and industrial group Finmeccanica. The C-27 is not only used by the U.S. but other countries across the world.

The C-27 was the result of a program originally called the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) which was conceived by the Army as part of their plans caused by the decision to cancel the RH-66 Comanche helicopter in 2004. The Comanche was going to be a new attack and reconnaissance helicopter utilizing many new technologies to maximize its stealth and performance. In development for almost twenty years it finally had begun serious testing when it was cancelled. The money freed up was used to by systems like the UH-60M, the AH-64D Block III, CH-47F and UH-72A helicopters.

The Army suffered from a lack of internal heavy lift for intra-theater missions unlike the Marine Corps who possessed their own C-130 transports. The JCA was meant to add this capability and relieve the pressure on the rotary wing fleet primarily being used to carry cargo in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fixed wing assets would be more efficient and economical.

In 2007 the Army and Air Force selected the C-27 from L-3 and Alenia over bids by Raytheon (RTN), who had teamed with EADS North America, offering a Spanish made C-295 and Lockheed Martin (LMT) who proposed a C-130 version. An initial contract worth about $2 billion for 78 aircraft was awarded to the winners.

The JCA was made a joint program and it was originally planned to issue it to Army and Air Force National Guard units to operate. In 2010 the Obama administration decided to transfer the program wholly to the Air Force to manage and operate. The number of aircraft was potentially reduced and only the Air Force Guard would receive it.

The first unit stood up in 2011 in Ohio where four aircraft will be based at Mansfield. In 2013 the Connecticut and the North Dakota Guard are supposed to received the aircraft.

There are now concerns that the C-27 program may be on the chopping block due to budgetary pressures. The Connecticut unit may be the first to feel this pain although the 2012 budget as submitted does contain the funding for the aircraft it may not make it into the final budget.

The C-27 is not a priority for the Air Force and new equipment for the Guard also sometimes takes hits. If the Air Force leadership is forced to sacrifice some of their funding it may be the C-27 is what is given up. It is also a small program and is primarily oriented towards non-combat missions at this time further making it easier to give up.

As the budget goes through these machinations over the next few years other programs similar to the C-27 may be on the chopping block. That does not mean they will be eliminated but they could see cuts, delays and changes to their size, missions and deployment plans. These programs will have to rely on the Congressmen and Senators who represent the states where they are made or based to protect them through trading of priorities and support.

The size of the cuts the Defense Department must make dictate that whole programs whether in development of production will have to be cut. The C-27 might just be one of them.

Photo from Blyzz’s Flickr photostream.

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Air Force Contracts With Biotechnology Company UES Inc.

The United States Air Force Research Lab (ARFL) contracted with Ohio based UES Inc. to provide biotechnology and nanotechnology research in support of materials development. The contract is worth about $44.5 million to the company and will be a major expansion of its work for that service. The ARFL is tasked with managing and funding most of the basic research performed by the service focusing on areas to improve aviation technology.

The contract will be carried out at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio where UES already conducts some work. The focus will be on looking at how biotechnology, nanotechnology and natural processes may be used to strengthen and protect materials. Obviously the Air Force needs to invest in material development as they are looking for lighter, stronger and stealthy ones to build advanced aircraft out of. UES has been growing recently and looking to become a prime contractor for these kind of contracts rather then just being a sub.

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Ohio cannot hire qualified people and decides to contract

October 22, 2008 by · Comment
Filed under: IT, logistics, Ohio, Proposal 

The State of Ohio implemented a PeopleSoft based personnel system. They have been unable to hire the 35 people needed to run the system due to competition for PeopleSoft experienced workers. Now they are attempting to contract out the work; hoping that a private company will have more luck in this area. One of the issues that the Federal government has had is they are not competitive in salary for high-demand skilled positions. This is especially true if is it a new technical area that there are not a great deal of experienced people out there. The hiring process is too cumbersome and there are issues hiring younger workers at the necessary salaries.

For more see this story at Trading Markets.

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DoD invests in beryllium production

The Department of Defense has provided financing to Brush Wellman, a division of Cleveland-based Brush Engineered Materials, for expansion of their beryllium processing facility near Toledo. See an article here. Beryllium is a strategic metal that DoD stockpiles in support of their systems production. Brush Wellman is the nation’s largest beryllium producer. DoD and the company will jointly finance the new expansion.

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