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The Spartan.

The C-27J Spartan, jointly developed by Alenia Aeronautica, a division of Finmeccanica, Italy's leading high tech company, and Lockheed Martin, is billed as "the world's finest military designed light-medium transport aircraft." Few of the media types, including me, who recently had the opportunity to participate in a media briefing and demonstration flight, would disagree with that assessment.

On a glorious autumn afternoon in October, after walking around a spanking new Spartan on the tarmac at the Shell Aerocentre at Ottawa's Uplands Airport, kicking the tires, inspecting the cockpit, and pretending to know something about advanced avionics--during the preflight tour I tagged along with a former CF Buffalo pilot who seemed to know what he was talking about--we took off for a half-hour flight over the Gatineau Hills.

Flying a little above the treetops with the rear cargo door open--the Spartan's two-man cockpit crew has ground mapping and moving map display as well as precision navigational consoles capable of detecting turbulence and wind sheer--we were treated to a view to die for. The lakes were still and the autumn leaves were a riot of colour, unfolding beneath us like a scene from an IMAX movie. Passengers and crew were equally delighted.

The Gatineau Hills, in full autumn splendour, were almost enough to distract us from the flight itself until our pilot decided to show off the Spartan's stuff by putting it through a series of tight turns a rapid climb and a steep descent before landing on very little runway. Tough, quiet, and remarkably maneuverable, seemed to the general consensus.

The Spartan, which is being considered as a replacement for the CF's aging fleet of search and rescue aircraft, first flew on September 24, 1999 at Alenia Aeronoutica's flight test centre in Turin, Italy. It is now in service with the Italian and Hellenic air forces in a variety of roles. A range of potential American, European, and Asian customers have also shown a keen interest in the Spartan. No wonder.

The only military transport designed specifically for mid-sized missions, payloads and budgets, the rugged little Spartan--it looks like a baby Herc--has a maximum speed of 325 knots, a range of more than 1,000 miles, and is capable of landing and taking off quickly from dirt strips, highways, and forest or jungle clearings. It has a phenomenal rate of climb and descent: three minutes to 10,000 feet and two-and-half minutes to land. It has a hard landing capability and can carry 46 fully equipped combat troops, 34 paratroopers, 36 stretchers and six attendants for medical evacuation, or 25,000 pounds of cargo, including tracked and wheeled vehicles--quietly, in air-conditioned comfort.

The Spartan has just completed a five-location tour across Canada to demonstrate its performance and tactical capabilities. As several Ottawa-area journalists discovered, the Spartan's performance was only matched by the graciousness of its Italian air force crew and the representatives of Alenia Aeronautica.
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Title Annotation:the military transport aircraft earns high marks in testing
Author:Twatio, Bill
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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