USAF Sees C-27J Potential In Africa July 14, 2008: With a Pentagon procurement slump expected in coming years, the U.S. Air Force is turning to its allies with a strategy to build up capacity, including materiel, training and support, around the world. One area seeing a lot of attention through this strategy is airlift. Among continued efforts with Europe is a push for NATO to procure a C-17 from USAF, on top of the two already on contract from Boeing. The partner nations will also stand up a homebase for the small strategic airlift fleet at Papa, Hungary, and led initially by a USAF colonel. Meanwhile, Qatar also intends to purchase the C-17, says Bruce Lemkin, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs. Other Middle Eastern nations – likely the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – likewise are considering buying the massive Boeing airlifter. Moreover, airlift is a linchpin for the U.S. cooperation strategy with African nations. Helping African nations develop an intercontinental air transport infrastructure and internal security is a key piece of the U.S. strategy there as the Defense Department sets up a new combatant command to oversee activities on the continent. The command, currently headquartered in Germany, began limited operations last fall and will stand up as its own unified command Oct. 1. But the new command has experienced a bumpy ride already, and not just from frustration in arranging an HQ in Africa. South Africa, which has fostered its own budding aerospace industry, is watching with caution as DOD formally sets up shop on the continent. For his part, Lemkin says that establishing the command could be a “catalyst” for closer relations with the Sub-Saharan powerhouse. The C-27J and the C-130J are both expected to fit into the strategy. Airlift resources are in need in Africa, which lacks robust overland routes; most transport there relies heavily on aviation. Already, 30 nations – including six in Africa – have expressed interest in the new L-3/Alenia North America C-27J transport, which is ideal for outreach to Africa as many of its nations cannot afford larger aircraft. The first foreign military sales (FMS) delivery is expected in 2012, according to Lemkin. To train C-27J crews worldwide, Lemkin says he wants to establish a U.S. facility. Meanwhile, Chad is exploring a purchase of the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J for its air force. Lemkin notes that the U.S. strategy does not focus solely on foreign sales of aircraft. USAF also will insist on support and spares packages for African partners, as well as training program for pilots and maintainers. And Air Force Special Operations Command is already engaged in Africa. Specialized teams are aiding nations around the globe in learning tactics for various missions, including border security and humanitarian assistance.
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