The Slovenia Times

New Spartan aircraft enters service

The Slovenian C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

The first of the two C-27J Spartan transport aircraft purchased by Slovenia from Italy has entered service with a flight to Kosovo in what the country's defence minister described as a watershed moment.

The multi-purpose military transport aircraft became part of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) fleet last December, and on 23 June, it completed its first official flight to Kosovo, where 108 members of the 49th SAF contingent are operating as part of NATO's KFOR mission.

The landing in Prishtina inaugurated an air bridge to Kosovo, which will facilitate the transport of troops and equipment. In the future, the aircraft will also be used for managing natural disasters and fighting fires.

Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Robert Glavaš explained that the air bridge "means that our personnel will be able to return home very easily, while it will also enable equipment transport". Previously, soldiers had to transfer in Skopje and Zagreb to get home.

"The transport aircraft is something the SAF has long awaited. With this, we are becoming independent and fully operational in terms of air transport," Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said during a visit to Prishtina, the last such before he is due to assume his new post as a member of the European Parliament.

The military will primarily use the aircraft to transport soldiers, cargo, and vehicles. The Spartan can carry up to 60 soldiers or about eleven tons of cargo.

"We're now proficient in these basic operations, and moving forward, we'll be capable of performing more complex missions, such as parachute drops, cargo drops, and beyond," said the aircraft's pilot, captain Robert Resnik.

The aircraft's utility extends to natural disaster management and firefighting. The SAF is set to acquire a firefighting module for the Spartan next year, enabling it to combat large-scale fires both at home and abroad.

The aircraft is also distinguished by its flexibility in take-off and landing, also performing well on grassy or gravel terrain.

The Spartan is adorned with Slovenian symbols and a silhouette of the literary character Martin Krpan, whose name it has been given. The standard crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, and loadmaster. The latter handles all tasks related to cargo transport, luggage space redistribution, cargo loading and unloading, and airdropping.

Šarec and his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto signed last year an agreement for the purchase of a second Spartan aircraft, which is expected to arrive in Slovenia by the end of this year.

"You can't do that much with a single aircraft. This aircraft also requires special maintenance, which is quite demanding, and there are periods when it is out of service or unavailable. That's why we need at least two, so one can be maintained while the other performs flight missions," Resnik explained.

The Spartans will help transport equipment and troops to areas where they operate. They will primarily support the troops in Kosovo, where a non-kinetic SAF battalion is currently operating as part of the KFOR mission.


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