RAAF Extends C-27J Spartan SAR Capabilities By Adding Airdrop of Compact Rescue Systems

A RAAF C-27J flying over the sea. In the boxes, compact air-sea rescue kits during the recent trials. (Image credit: RAAF)

The Royal Australian Air Force fleet of C-27Js can now drop small containers and deliver emergency supplies to people stranded at sea.

The No. 35 Squadron, based at RAAF Base Amberly, operates a fleet of 10 C-27J Spartan aircraft, the first of those arrived in Australia in 2015. The multi-mission military transport aircraft complements the larger C-17 Globemaster III and C-130J Super Hercules within the Australian air mobility fleet, conducting a wide variety of missions which span from the airlift of cargo loads, to the airdrop of paratroops, to the aeromedical evacuation and SAR support.

Noteworthy, the latter has been recently extended with the addition of the capability to airdrop Compact Rescue Systems (CRS). The CRS is a compact air-sea rescue kit that can be filled with life-saving medicine, food, radio or even part of an engine. It is attached to a floating buoy and dropped at low altitude near the target.

The certification of the new capability was achieved after a testing campaign conducted throughout June and July 2020. A Test and Evaluation Team from Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) and aircrew from No. 35 Squadron carried out a trial in the waters off the Gold Coast, Queensland, that also saw the involvement of a PC-21 aircraft, that flew as a chase plane for the testing team, and a Marine Coast Guard unit, that supported the tests from the surface, retrieving both the CRS and providing additional drop reports.

While the airdrop of compact rescue kits was not an initial requirement for the RAAF, the addition of such a capability once again highlights the flexibility of the asset and proves how the C-27J has continued to evolve, offering a wider range of missions to cope with different requirements and unexpected challenges.

For instance, we have recently reported about the testing conducted by Leonardo to integrate ATIs (Air Transit Isolators) Biocontainment Systems and turn the Spartan into a flying ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for Covid-19 patients. We have also explained how C-27J Spartans in service with the air forces of nine countries have been used throughout the pandemic, to repatriate citizens unable to travel home; to transport highly infectious patients in special bio-containment stretchers; to carry teams of medical specialists, critical medical equipment and protective devices, conducting critical support missions across Europe, Latin America and the US.

Worth of remark is also the trial successfully carried out by the Italian Air Force, to extend its FARP (Forward Arming and Refueling Point) capability by airdropping special fuel containers from the C-27J.

Air Force loadmasters from No.35 Squadron,deploy a compact search and rescue kit, observed by an Aircraft Research and Development Unit member, onboard a C-27J Spartan aircraft as part of a capability trial, held in the waters off the Gold Coast, Queensland. (Image credit: RAAF)
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.