US Air Force plans to include C-27J Spartan aircraft in its inventory are on track.

The air force will field 38 C-27J propeller-driven airlifters, designed for austere environments, that will be operated by the Air National Guard.

AMC C-27J test manager Lt Col Gene Capone said the programme was in transition from an army-led joint programme to a sole air force programme.

“Think of the C-27J as a ‘mini-Herc’ [C-130 Hercules] – it looks like and acts like a C-130, but it is about half the size, with 3.5 pallet positions versus six to eight pallets for the C-130,” he said.

“The smaller size brings efficiency of scale to the air force’s portfolio of airlifters.”

A formal test begun in October that will continue until December 2009 in Iraq to gather information on this new air force mission.

Air, space and information operations directorate Col Bobby Fowler said the test would help them work out the command and control structure of the direct support mission and help them to validate requirements.

AMC and the air force plan to continuously review and update the C-27J using input from field commanders until it is incorporated into joint doctrine.