Lithuania’s Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas met the new Italian ambassador to the Baltic nation HE Emanuele de Maigret on 8 February, 2024. The minister requested Italy’s assistance in supplying spare parts for the Spartan transport aircraft in a timely manner.

Between 2006 and 2009 the Lithuanian Air Force inducted three C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Alenia Aeronautica, later renamed Leonardo.

Launched in 1997, the C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft incorporates the same propulsion system and advanced avionics as the C-130J Hercules Transporter. The Spartan has the same logistical and maintenance characteristics of the Hercules, and shares commonality of the cargo capacity.

The primary roles of the C-27J are cargo transport, troop transport, and material and paratroop air drop. Other missions include maritime patrol, tactical operations, medical evacuation, ground refuelling, fire-fighting and aerial spraying.

Without modification, Humvees, of which the Army operates 200 units and M113 armoured personnel carriers, of which the Army operates 269 units, or similar military vehicles can be driven on and off the Spartan via a hydraulically operated rear-loading ramp. The aircraft is constructed to offload vehicles quickly while taking fire.

The aircraft can carry 24 casualties on litters (stretchers) and four medical attendants. The cargo compartment is equipped with a dedicated aero-medical oxygen supply and 12 power centres for medical or auxiliary equipment.

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For the paratroop role, the aircraft is equipped with door-jump platforms and static lines and can carry up to 24 fully equipped paratroops. Paratroop jumps can be carried out from the paratroop doors on both sides of the cargo compartment or from the cargo ramp and rear door.

Sky Soldiers jump from an Italian C-27J Spartan as part of a combined certification jump with paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade to allow US paratroopers to jump using the T-11 parachute from Italian aircraft on 25 July 2019 in Aviano, Italy. Credit: DVIDS.

A lack of confidence in Leonardo’s delivery time

In his discussion with the ambassador, Anušauskas revealed that there are ongoing negotiations with the Italian company on a Spartan maintenance contract update.

The minister revealed that the Italian contractor “voiced a wish to extend the terms of spares supply beyond the current [arrangement], something we’d rather not approve. Therefore, we turn to Italy to take action and ensure that spare parts for the Spartan aircraft arrive in Lithuania on time.”

The rearmament of Europe on such a vast scale has placed growing demands on industry to deliver more systems more abruptly. For that reason, prime defence companies are witnessing record-breaking financial results while their backlog begins to rise considerably.

In Leonardo’s last financial statement on 9 November, 2023, the Italian contractor reported a 7.6% backlog order increase from 37,353 to 40,186 orders – a very telling key performance indicator.

All too aware of the defence climate as a country located in the Baltic region, situated on Nato’s eastern flank with Russia, Anušauskas is eager to ensure a timely delivery of spares for a platform that serves as an important part of Lithuania’s aerial transportation fleet.

In addition, untimely deliveries from industry will doubtless throw a wrench into the country’s modernisation plans. Lithuania’s modernisation prioritises key capabilities for the Lithuanian armed forces, bolsters air defence capabilities, advances technical capabilities, and lessens the reliance on its Soviet-era equipment with new Western platforms.