DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. — After a successful collaboration between the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group and the U.S. Coast Guard, the last of 13 regenerated C-27J Spartans returned to service October 19.
When the U.S. Air Force retired the twin-engine, light cargo aircraft in 2013, the Coast Guard expressed interest in acquiring them for use in maritime patrol, search-and-rescue, and disaster assistance roles.
The Coast Guard negotiated an agreement with 309th AMARG, which specified the service’s needs related to bringing the aircraft into operation. The 309th took primary responsibility for the overall regeneration effort, with the Coast Guard providing final engineering and logistics authority for the aircraft.
Both agencies worked from July 2014 until mid-October, culminating in this final departure.
During a discussion with 309th AMARG leadership in advance of his December visit to “America’s Airpower Reservoir,” Coast Guard Capt. Eric Storch, Commanding Officer of the HC-27J Asset Project Office (APO) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, expressed his appreciation for this significant program milestone.
“From one of the many O-6s in [Coast Guard] aviation, that has a vested interest in the C-27 program, I wanted to call and say ‘thank you’ for supporting the Coast Guard in this three-year effort and share our appreciation for your regeneration of all 13 of the C-27 aircraft at AMARG,” Storch said.
Having met several of the C-27 program’s key players here earlier in the year, Storch specifically thanked Shirley Mercier, 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron director, John Meske, Medium Aircraft flight chief, and Frank Berger, Medium Aircraft supervisor.
“I know there are a whole lot more of you out there that made this all possible and hope to shake your hand, and tell you in person how much we appreciated this,” Storch said.
Coast Guard leaders were pleased to hear 309th AMARG completed all of the C-27J regenerations by 2017. Storch told his AMARG audience that his [Coast Guard] leadership “… thought it would be 2019 at the earliest before the last aircraft was out of the desert and flying again.”
“This is certainly a testament to your team’s professionalism and dedication,” Storch continued. “We certainly couldn’t have made it happen without you. I know there were a lot of challenges and bumps in the road because the U.S. Coast Guard is a little unique.”
The Coast Guard now has 14 C-27J aircraft (one arrived directly from a contractor in Texas).
“We’ve come a long way on this program,” said Timothy Gray, 309th AMARG deputy director. “We have overcome challenges with limited access to spare parts, the size of the fleet and lack of technical data.”
“We shut down production in Sept. 2015 to apply the Air Force Sustainment Center’s Art of the Possible methodology (an ideology of continuous process improvement),” Gray added. “The results have been astounding; we decreased the time to regenerate from 213 down to 41 days and saved the Coast Guard over $500 million while accelerating delivery by two years.”
The Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento became the first unit to put the C-27Js into service in July 2016.
In May 2017, Air Station Sacramento became the first Coast Guard unit to begin operating with a full complement of six aircraft — integrating the aircraft into their medium range surveillance fleet alongside the HC-144 Ocean Sentry (a twin-engine aircraft similar to the Spartan).
According to Storch, the six C-27Js are performing Search and Rescue duty 24/7 and “since standing them up have accumulated about 3,500 flight hours.”
An additional two C-27s are undergoing depot maintenance overhaul in Elizabeth City.
Working with Naval Air Systems Command, the first aircraft was sent to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, where it will undergo an 18-month modification for a C4ISR package to include a nose-mounted, high-definition forward-looking Infrared and 360-degree belly-mounted radar.
This “missionization” provides capabilities to detect, classify and identify maritime targets.
The arrival of C-27J number 2705, provides the APO at Elizabeth City with five aircraft. Once the Coast Guard missionizes all of them, the Coast Guard will stand up an Air Station in Clearwater, Fla.
“We’ve put about 2,800 hours on the C-27s at the APO in Elizabeth City. Since taking these aircraft out of storage, the Coast Guard has put well over 6,000 hours on the Spartan fleet,” Storch said.
Upon hearing reports from the C-27 aircrews that the aircraft had been deployed to assist with recent hurricane relief efforts, Col. Jennifer Barnard, 309th AMARG commander, expressed tremendous satisfaction in knowing the aircraft “were being put to good use so soon after regeneration.”
Storch confirmed the C-27s were “doing some great things for the American public.” He also said the Coast Guard had placed “multiple C-27s on the road for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.”
“We moved a lot of first responders and search and rescue folks with equipment, and within 12 hours of getting them into Houston, they were making a difference in pulling people out of flooded areas. We were assisting and saving a lot of lives,” he said.
The Coast Guard also deployed C-27s to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, delivering disaster assessment teams, tactical law enforcement teams and even some U.S. Postal Service agents to those areas.
“The sorties made with [aircraft] 2703, going in and out of Puerto Rico bringing in a lot of equipment, made a difference,” Storch said. “That aircraft was regenerated in June.”
Wrapping up his phone call, the captain re-emphasized “the C-27 is doing some great things for America, and 309th AMARG had a hand in making that happen. Thanks again for your tremendous support. You really helped out the Coast Guard and the nation.”
Follow the U.S. Coast Guard HC-27J Spartans: https://www.facebook.com/uscoastguardHC27APO/