April 25, 2009:
The Czech Republic is buying four C-295 air transports from European firm EADS. These 23 ton aircraft are basically half size C-130s, with a payload of nine tons and powered by two turboprop engines. Costing about $30 million each, the C-295 entered service a decade ago and over 60 have been delivered so far. Such aircraft are more suitable for a European country than the larger C-130 "Hercules.".
Even the U.S. Army considered buying the C-295 to replace its 44 two engine C-23s (a freight version of the British Shorts 330 passenger airliner). The 12 ton C-23 can carry up to 3.5 tons of cargo, or up to 30 troops. In Iraq, the army C-23s have proved invaluable in getting priority army cargos where they are needed, often to places the C-130 could not reach. With a war going on, the army has lots of recent evidence of how difficult it is for army commanders to get a C-130 for some urgent mission.
Several aircraft competed for this contract, including the CN-235, C-295 and C-27J, along with the current the navy C-2. What all these aircraft had in common was greater capacity (about half the C-130s 20 ton load), and the ability to fly higher than the C-23s 20,000 foot maximum altitude (which prevents it from being used in Afghanistan). The C-27J won, but it was a close competition, and now Department of Defense budget cuts may eliminate most of the C-27J order..
The Czechs are using the C-295 to replace four Russian made An-26s (which carry less than a C-295, and are more difficult to maintain.)