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Article is in The World Airnews Magazine June 2012 Edition

Airbus Military’s C295 makes its SA debut: Mark Mansfield reports

Text and photographs by Mark Mansfield

MAKING ITS debut in South Africa recently was the Airbus Military C295 which visited the country for a series of demonstration flights and exercises with the security forces in the hopes of winning an order to fulfil their transport and maritime patrol requirements.


As part of its demonstrations it airdropped paratroopers and a briefing was held with 7 Medical Battalion Group on the aircraft’s capabilities in its medical configuration. The aircraft also demonstrated its cargo-carrying capabilities. “Airbus Military has a long established partnership with South Africa and the South African Air Force (SAAF). By bringing the C295 to South Africa, we are able to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities in typical SANDF (South African National Defence Force) mission configurations for tactical transport, medevac, anti-piracy, counter smuggling and Economic Exclusion Zone protection operations,” explained Antonio Rodriguez Barberán, senior vice-president, commer-cial for Airbus Military.

The Spanish-based manufacturer is proposing the C295 as a single-platform solution to meet South Africa’s requirements for new surveillance aircraft in order to support national and multinational peace and humanitarian missions in Africa and its surrounding waters. The twin-engine C295 turboprop is the latest edition to Airbus Military’s family of light/medium transport aircraft. It evolved from the smaller CN235, which the SAAF has operated and for which it has the necessary established maintenance, training, operational and support expertise, experience, infrastructure and capabilities.

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The C295 that visited South Africa was configured with standard equipment, a cargo handling and aerial delivery system and was also equipped to support paratrooping, medical evacuation and humanitarian relief missions. It can carry payloads of up to nine tonnes in standard cargo pallets, or 71 soldiers in transport missions. Alternatively, it can accommodate 50 paratroopers. The C295MPA/ASW Persuader maritime patrol version features the fully integrated tactical system mission suite, comprising of a search radar, electro-optical/infrared sensor, magnetic anomaly detector, four multifunction consoles, sonobuoy or flare and marker launcher and three hard points for torpedoes, antisubmarine munitions or depth charges. Chile and Portugal have ordered the maritime patrol variant. Martin Sefzig, director of sales for Africa at Airbus Military, said he believed the C295 met both transport and maritime patrol roles as required by South Africa.

He noted that Airbus’ support of SAAF C212s and CN235s meant that if the air force bought the C295, it would require very little added infrastructure to operate and maintain the type. Airbus Military’s relationship with South Africa also extends to local industry, where Denel Aerostructures and Aerosud are both full industrial partners, providing design, engineering and manufacturing of major components for the A400M military transport programme. In addition, Cobham South Africa, in Cape Town, supplies satellite communications antennae for Airbus Military and Airbus commercial aircraft. Sefzig said Airbus Military was also in discussion with a number of other nations in Africa regarding the C295, with interest from West and East Africa. Ghana last year bought two C295s and will be deploying one to Africa Aerospace and Defence at Waterkloof Air Force Base in September. Elsewhere on the continent, Algeria operates seven C295s and Egypt has three flying and recently ordered another three.

After its demonstration at Waterkloof, the C295 flew to Lesotho, where it was evaluated as a VIP aircraft. It then flew to Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Entebbe and, this month, will arrive in Gabon and also possibly visit Luanda. The United Nations has also expressed interest in acquiring the C295 to replace its old, inefficient Russian aircraft. Last year the UN invited Airbus to demonstrate the C295 in the DRC, which Airbus duly did in July. The United Nations does not own its own aircraft, but operates aircraft leased by contributor nations. Airbus Military, the United Nations and its partner nations are discussing possible procurement of the C295, with Gabon emerging as a likely customer. The C295 is suitable for a number of other missions, including fire-fighting, airborne early warning and control, oil spill detection, spraying and air-to-air refuelling.


COMPETITION


The SAAF is seeking to acquire new maritime patrol aircraft under Project Saucepan. Although no formal specification or requirement has been issued, the air force’s budget is expected to increase in 2013/14 to take Project Saucepan costs into account. As a result, a number of other international maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft suppliers are keeping a keen eye on the South African requirement, including Saab with its Saab 340 MSA (maritime security aircraft).

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The SAAB aircraft features a telephonics maritime surveillance radar, retractable Star Safire III electro optical sensor turret, SatCom, mission management system and ship automatic (AIS) identification system. Meanwhile, USA-based Raytheon is keen to sell the Beech King Air 350ER. Smaller, but more expensive than the Saab product, a basic system includes maritime search radar, electro-optical /infrared (EO/IR) sensors, AIS and onboard mission workstations with options for a datalink and drop hole. With an endurance of up to nine hours, the Beech King Air 350ER is often seen as the market leader. An example of the special mission King Air visited South Africa recently (see World Airnews, May 2012).

However, the C295 is seen to have little competition in its market segment, as it and the Alenia C27J Spartan are the only new Western turboprop medium military transports in production today. The C27J is most likely also competing to fulfil the SAAF’s requirements, and was demonstrated at Africa Aerospace and Defence in 2010. The C27J trumps the C295 in terms of speed, payload, climb rate and range, but is far more expensive to buy and operate. Also being offered is the Lockheed C- 130J which also visited the AAD 2010 expo as part of its demonstration to the SAAF. This aircraft is far larger than both the C295 and C27J, but again, is more expensive to purchase and operate, although the SAAF has been operating the earlier C-130 marque for many years. Boeing is offering the C-17 Globemaster III which was also seen at the last AAD but again, is far larger and more expensive that the other competitors.


C295 At A Glance

The Airbus Military C295 is a new generation, very robust and reliable, highly versatile tactical airlifter able to carry up to nine tonnes of payload or up to 71 personnel, at a maximum cruising speed of 260 knots. Being 12,7-metres long, the C295 is claimed to have the longest unobstructed cabin in its class. Fitted with retractable landing gear and pressurised cabin, it can cruise at altitudes up to 25 000 feet, yet boasts remarkable short takeoff and landing (STOL) performance from unprepared short, soft and rough airstrips, as well as excellent low level flight characteristics. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprop engines, the C295 offers excellent manoeuvrability, outstanding hot and high performance, low fuel consumption and consequently a very long endurance of up to 11 hours in the air.


The C295 is fitted with a glass cockpit with digital avionics which include four large active matrix liquid crystal displays fully compatible with night vision goggles. The advanced integrated avionics system with multi-functional displays provides improved situational awareness and flight safety, lower pilot workload and enhanced mission effectiveness. The system functionalities support the requirements for both civil and military tactical environments: CARP/HARP computational aids, performance management, VNAV, radio management, tactical databases, etc.

The autopilot and flight director system is certified under FAR-25 requirements for ILS Cat I and Cat II approaches and GPS non-precision approaches for automatic or manual operations. The C295 offers optional self-protection equipment, which is already in service in hostile environments like Iraq and Afghanistan: cockpit armour, radar warning (RWR), missile warning (MAWS), laser warning (LWS), and chaff/flares dispensers. In flight refuelling capability is also optional for the C295.

 

For and Media and Journalism related queries, please contact Mark Mansfield

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