Originally conceived as a military aircraft, the C-27J is currently in use, most notably as a search and rescue aircraft, for the United States Coast Guard. The C-27J is suited, according to Leonardo, for the most extreme environmental conditions and the most challenging tactical scenarios; the aircraft can land and take off from unprepared runways, and it can be quickly reconfigured through “palletized” mission kits.
The C-27J Next Generation Fire Fighter has a roll-on/roll-off second-generation Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS II) supplied by UAC that allows the aircraft to act as a land-based water bomber.
The fire suppression system allows rapid in-flight discharge of a large amount of liquid (7,950 l/2,100 US Gal) stored in two tanks inside the fuselage (a larger one for water/retardant liquid and a smaller one for foam). The fluid is evacuated through the nozzle installed on the left side paratroopers ‘stub’ door. The liquid release system is controllable and allows adding foam retardant with variable concentration controls.
The system can be easily installed and removed (roll-on/roll-off) via the rear loading ramp by a minimal crew in 90 min. A dedicated Ground Support Equipment (GSE) is available on a pallet that can be loaded on the C-27J aircraft ramp and carried together with the MAFFS system during the deployment of the aircraft on a Forward Operating Base. The GSE is unloaded from the aircraft and used during the refilling of the tanks. The GSE does not require external power and can also be used in remote areas of operation.
The C-27J Next Generation’s capabilities and performance at low altitudes and in hot and high conditions are ideally suited for firefighting. With day and night capabilities, excellent situational awareness and low workload are ensured thanks to modern avionics. Large cockpit windows allow excellent external visibility, essential during firefighting missions, typically at low altitudes.
The multi-mission C-27J equipped with a dedicated comms suite allows operating as a “net-centric” solution, fully integrated with different resources on the ground, air, and space, through radio communications, data links, and satellite communications.
The Fire Fighter configuration is a flexible solution, ideal for enhancing the capabilities of the C-27J Next Generation multi-mission aircraft with significantly lower acquisition and operating costs than a firefighting dedicated platform.
When not used in firefighting duties, the aircraft can be quickly reconfigured for a wide range of transport, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support, civil protection, and SAR roles.
A first fire fighting solution for the C-27J, developed in cooperation with Caylym, comprises a “Guardian” system, which provides the release of 6 biodegradable water/fire retardant containers that can be effectively airdropped from a safe altitude (500-1,500 ft), also at night, on a single passage with no aircraft modifications To date this solution has been adopted by the Air Forces of Peru and Romania and has attracted the interest of many other Spartan operators about its flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Therefore, the Romanian Air Force successfully operated with its C-27Js against wildfires that hit Greece in 2018, while Peruvian Fuerza Aerea Peruana has acquired total operational capacity in using the Caylym “Guardian” system and is constantly ready to intervene in case of emergency.
A key factor for the C-27J, when compared with traditional firefighting fixed-wing aircraft solutions and therefore “single-mission,” is that the solutions developed for the C-27J Spartan platform allow Leonardo’s Fire Fighter aircraft to operate with great effectiveness against wildfires while maintaining the possibility to be quickly reconfigured to perform a wide range of military and civil protection operational tasks.
The MAAFS solution can be adapted to equip C-27J aircraft already in service – today, there are a total of 87 “Spartans” operated by 16 military customers worldwide – with effective Fire Fighting solutions.
The C-27J Spartan embodies the essence of the national security concept, proving itself as an ideal solution for vital contribution to humanitarian support, civil protection tasks, and military operations. In a world impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, wildfires, and many other emergencies, the Spartan has proved to be able to deliver effective and sustained support to communities worldwide.