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The Aeritalia G.222 (formerly Fiat Aviazione, later Alenia Aeronautica) is a medium-sized STOL military transport aircraft. It was developed to meet a NATO specification, but Italy was initially the only NATO member to adopt the type. The United States purchased a small number of G.222s, designating them the C-27A Spartan.
A modernised variant, the Alenia C-27J Spartan, had been developed. While it retains many aspects of the original aircraft, the C-27J adopts the same engines and many of the systems used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.
In 1962, NATO issued a specification for a V/STOL transport aircraft (NATO Basic Military Requirement 4), capable of supporting dispersed V/STOL fighters. Fiat's design team, led by Giuseppe Gabrielli, produced a design to meet this requirement, designated G.222; it was to be powered by two Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines and with six to eight Rolls-Royce RB162 lift engines to give VTOL capability.
[''Air International'' April 1977, pp. 163-164.]
None of the submissions resulted in a production contract; however the Italian Air Force (AMI) felt that the Fiat Aviazione proposal had merit, and placed an order for two prototypes and a ground-test airframe in 1968.
The G.222 was substantially redeveloped from the NATO submission, the V/STOL lift engines having been omitted completely and the conventional Dart engines substituted for a pair of General Electric T64s; [''Air International'' April 1977, pp. 164, 166.] the twin-boom tail featured on the V/STOL concept was also eliminated and replaced by a more conventional single tail configuration; subsequently the new aircraft had no V/STOL capability but was retained considerable short take-off/landing (STOL) performance. [Evangelisti, Spinoni and Jones 1999, p. A11-2.]
On 18 July 1970, the first prototype took the aircraft's maiden flight with test pilot Vittorio Sanseverino at the controls; the Italian Air Force began evaluating the two prototypes in December 1971. Following successful testing, the AMI contract for 44 aircraft was issued to Aeritalia (of which Fiat Aviazione had since become a part).
[''Air International'' April 1977, pp. 167-168.] The first production aircraft entered Italian service in April 1978. [Taylor 1988, p.143.] Following its introduction by the AMI, the G.222 was procured as a tactical transport aircraft by various international customers, including Argentina, Nigeria, Somalia, Venezuela and Thailand. [Evangelisti, Spinoni and Jones 1999, p. A11-3.]
In 1977, Libya sought the purchase of 20 G.222s, this was vetoed by the U.S. Government, who had imposed an embargo on military arms and equipment to Libya, which including the G.222's T64 engines. To get around this restriction, Aeritalia developed a version of the G.222 powered by the Rolls-Royce Tyne engine and other US supplied equipment were replaced by European equivalents; the more powerful Tyne engine also gave this variant superior "hot and high" performance.
[''Air International'' April 1979, pp. 170-173.] Libya placed an order for 20 Tyne-powered aircraft instead.
Following Italian humanitarian missions in Bosnia and Somalia, in 1996 the AMI began undertaking a major update program on their G.222 fleet; modifications include compatibility with Night Vision Goggles to enable night operations, increasing the aircraft's self-defense capabilities, new communications and navigation systems, and the removal of obsolete equipment.
In 1990, the United States Air Force selected the G.222 as the basis of a "Rapid-Response Intra-Theater Airlifter" (RRITA). Operated under the designation ''C-27A Spartan'', ten G.222s were purchased and underwent avionics upgrades by Chrysler Aerospace. These aircraft were stationed at Howard AFB, Panama.
[Donald and Lake 1996, p. 29.] The USAF would later dispose of their C-27A fleet, partly due to shifting priorities between the Army and the Air Force and partly because of the impending introduction of a newer variant, the Alenia C-27J Spartan.
Italian Air Force Alenia G.222RM radio and radar calibration aircraft, 2005
The G.222 is a twin turboprop-engine tactical military transport aircraft, and is designed to be capable of transporting equipment or troops in combat zones and operating with minimal ground support.
Due to features such as double-slotted flaps, stacked brakes, and reversible propellers, the G.222 has excellent short landing capabilities and is able to land in as little as 1,800 feet. [Schading 2011, p. 279.] As the G.222 has austere maintenance requirements and is able to operate from short, rough airstrips in remote regions, it has been heavily used in humanitarian missions across Africa, Europe and Central America.
The G.222's cargo deck can carry up to 9,000 kg (19,840 lb) of cargo or up to 53 troops;
additionally, it can be outfitted to perform medevac operations; other specialist equipment can be added, such as for the signals intelligence role. The cargo deck has a large rear ramp, allowing the loading of palletised goods and vehicles, as well as doors to the sides capable of deploying paratroopers. The height of the landing gear can be manually controlled to easily facilitate the loading of various cargos. [Girolami and Quadro 2006, p. 1-3.]
The cockpit provides excellent external visibility for pilots, most of the key controls are centrally-placed between the two pilots.
Some aircraft were fitted with refuelling probes and appropriate equipment to support aerial refuelling. Some Italian G.222s have been equipped with a self-protection suite, which uses multiple forms of sensors to warn against identified threats, this suite also includes several countermeasures such as chaff and flare dispensers.
Afghan Air Force C-27A, 2010
The G.222 has seen considerable service in air relief and military supply operations. From 1979 onwards, Italy, along with other Western nations, provided considerable military aid to Somalia, part of the Italian contribution was four G.222s. In 1982, three EjÃ©rcito Argentino G.222s were operational during the Falklands War, and may have participated in a logistical capacity. In 1983, a single Italian Air Force G.222 was outfitted for fire suppression duties, alongside an existing C-130 in the same role.
On 3 September 1992, an Italian Air Force (''Aeronautica Militare Italiana'') G.222 was shot down when approaching Sarajevo airfield, while conducting a United Nations relief mission. It crashed from the airfield; a NATO rescue mission was aborted when 2 USMC CH-53 helicopters came under small arms fire. The cause of the crash was determined to be a surface to air missile, but it was not clear who shot it. Everyone on board - four Italian crew members and four French passengers - died in the crash. In 2005, the Italian Air Force officially retired their fleet of G.222s; they were replaced by a newer variant, the C-27J, which had originally been due to enter service in 2001.
In September 2008, Alenia North America was awarded a USAF contract to upgrade and refurbish 18 G.222s, to be tranferred to and used by the Afghan Air Force and Afghan National Army Air Corps. Ballistic protection, adaptions for serving in the conditions of Afghanistan, and many new avionics systems, including a digital auto-pilot, were installed; two aircraft were also configured for VIP transport duties.
[[http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-203814930.html "Roll-out of the first G.222 aircraft, refurbished and modernized with systems and avionics, at Alenia Aeronautica's Capodichino plant".] ''Defense & Aerospace Week'', 22 July 2009.] In January 2013, the USAF decided not to renew the support contract for the Afghan fleet due to claimed servicability issues and operational difficulties; Alenia responded, stating that the fleet was exceeding the requirements laid out by the USAF, with 10-12 aircraft available for operations against the requirement for six.
;G.222TCM : Initial designation, two prototypes for the Italian Air Force
;G.222A : Standard transport version for the Italian Air Force
;G.222RM : (''Radiomisura'' - "radio measurements")- radio/radar calibration aircraft
;G.222SAA : (''Sistema Aeronautico Antincendio'' - "aeronautical fire-fighting system") - fire-fighter equipped for dumping water or fire retardant chemicals. Four built for Italian Air Force
;G.222T : Version powered by the Rolls-Royce Tyne for the Libyan Air Force. Sometimes designated G.222L.
;G.222VS : (''Versione Speciale'' - "special version") ECM version - two built for Italian Air Force. Sometimes designated G.222GE.
;C-27A Spartan : Ten G.222s purchased for the United States Air Force.
;C-27J Spartan :
Italian Air Force G.222A at RIAT 2009
A Royal Thai Air Force G.222 during an emergency evacuation exercise at COBRA GOLD '01, with a US Army UH-60Q Black Hawk MEDEVAC helicopter
* Afghan National Army Air Force has received several former Italian Air Force G.222s under a USAF contract. Following upgrades by Alenia, deliveries began in 2009. By December 2012, 16 aircraft had been delivered; the USAF canceled the contract then because of lack of maintenance support from Alenia.
[Osborne, Anthony and Amy Butler. [http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/asd_01_04_2013_p01-02-533438.xml "U.S. Air Force Halts Troubled Afghan Air Force Transport Deal."] ''Aviation Week'', 4 January 2013.]
* Argentine Army Aviation has 3 aircraft.
* Italian Air Force operated a total of 52 aircraft (42 G.222A/TCM, 4 G.222RM, 5 G.222SAA, and 1 G.222VS). Officially retired from its inventory, but at least 1 RM and 1 G.222VS aircraft remains operational.
* Libyan Air Force operated 20 aircraft.
* Nigerian Air Force received 5 aircraft during 1984-85. Alenia Aeronautica is updating these aircraft. 1 ex-Italian Air Force aircraft ordered in 2008.
*Peruvian National Police
* Somali Air Corps ordered 4 aircraft, 2 aircraft received.
* Royal Thai Air Force operated 6 aircraft; retired as of 2012
* Tunisian Air Force operates 5 aircraft.
* Dubai had 1 aircraft.
* United States Air Force operated 10 C-27A (1990â€“99)
* US Department of State has 4 ex-USAF C-27As based out of Patrick AFB, Florida, in support of counter-narcotics activities in South America, primarily Colombia transporting personnel and supplies.
* Venezuelan Air Force - 2 aircraft.
* Venezuelan Army - 6 aircraft
C-27A Spartan in flight, 1995