The Pentagon is sending $50 million cargo planes straight from the assembly line to mothballs because it has no use for them, yet it still hasn’t stopped ordering the aircraft, according to a report.
A dozen nearly new Italian-built C-27J Spartans have been shipped to an Air Force facility in Arizona dubbed “the boneyard,” and five more currently under construction are likely headed for the same fate, according to an investigation by the Dayton Daily News. The Air Force has spent $567 million on 21 of the planes since 2007, according to purchasing officials at Dayton’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Of those, 16 have been delivered – with almost all sent directly to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where some 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles, with a total value of more than $35 billion, sit unused.
The C-27J has the unique capability of taking off and landing on crude runways, Ethan Rosenkranz, national security analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, told the newspaper. But with sequestration dictating Pentagon cuts, the planes were deemed a luxury it couldn't afford.
“When they start discarding these programs, it's wasteful,” he said.
The planes are built by Rome-based Alenia Aermacchi, under what was initially a $2 billion contract, though that was scaled back.
Local politics appear to have played a role in the planes continued manufacture, according to the newspaper. Ohio's senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, were both defenders of the C-27J when 800 jobs and a mission at Mansfield Air National Guard Base depended on it. Brown urged the military in a 2011 letter to purchase up to 42 of the aircraft, saying too few planes "will weaken our national and homeland defense." Congress pulled the plug on the broader expenditure.
But canceling orders for planes already being built is not feasible -- even if they are not needed, according to Air Force spokesman Darryl Mayer.
"They are too near completion for a termination to be cost effective and other government agencies have requested the aircraft," Mayer told the paper.