Air Transportation: Mexico Bolsters C-295 Fleet

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November 12, 2011: The Mexican Air Force has ordered another five C-295 air transports from European firm EADS. This will give Mexico 14 of these aircraft (in service or on order). Four of these are used by the Mexican Navy.

The C-295 is a 23 ton aircraft that is basically a half size C-130 ("Hercules"), 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 80 have been delivered or ordered so far. Such aircraft are more suitable for a European country than the larger C-130 "Hercules." While Mexico is a large country, the C-295 has sufficient range to go anywhere it is needed there.

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 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 U.S. Navy C-2. What all these aircraft had in common was greater capacity (about half the C-130's 20 ton load), and the ability to fly higher than the C-23's 20,000 foot maximum altitude (which prevents it from being used in Afghanistan). The C-27J won, but it was a close competition, although subsequent Department of Defense budget reductions eliminated most of the C-27Js planned.

 


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