The RAAF has grounded some of its C-27J Spartans following discovery of structural cracking on the aircraft.
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The grounding, which affects an unspecified number of Defence’s Spartan aircraft, comes after the US Coast Guard suspended use of all 14 of its Spartans, finding that each had cracks of “varying degrees” and saying they would remain grounded until a “thorough evaluation” was completed.
Manufacturer Leonardo had earlier issued an Alert Service Bulletin directing operators, which include the USCG and RAAF as well as the militaries of Italy, Mexico, and a number of other countries, to check for cracks near where the horizontal and vertical stabilisers are attached to the fuselage.
“The Royal Australian Air Force has initiated inspections on Australia’s C-27J fleet and identified similar issues,” a Defence spokesperson told the ABC.
“Aircraft found to have cracking will not be flown until an engineering assessment has been completed.”
In a statement, Leonardo said that the issue is fixable and should have minimal impact on operations.
“In order to mitigate any impacts on aircraft operations, Leonardo has already identified a repair solution in case an issue is actually detected,” the manufacturer said.
“The implementation of such repair can be performed at customer premises by the Operators and does not require significant effort. The reported issue is therefore not expected to affect planned aircraft operations.”
Australia currently has 10 Spartans operated by No. 35 Squadron from RAAF Base Amberley, which now focuses on peacetime operations such as search and rescue and aeromedical operations.
The RAAF initially bought the aircraft as a replacement for the Caribou to fit in between the Chinook and larger Hercules and C-17 Globemaster.
It has not been without previous controversy, with Labor last year highlighting its inability to land on battlefields as an example of mismanagement of Defence projects by the previous Liberal federal government.