The C-27J Spartan was developed from the previous G.222, which was co-produced by three Italian companies - Aeritalia, Alenia Aeronautica and Fiat Aviazione. This military cargo aircraft was widely used by Italian Air Force and recommended itself well. In 1995 Lockheed Martin and Alenia Aeronautica signed an agreement to develop an improved version of the G.222, as improvements were necessary to meet modern requirements. The main changes were made to engines and electronic systems, sourced from the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.
The C-27J made it's maiden flight in 1999. The new aircraft has 35% increase in range and 15% faster cruise speed than it's predecessor. Developers claim, that to date it is the only true modern tactical cargo aircraft in the world. It is used to transport troops, cargo and performs airdrops and medical evacuation.
Dimensions and performance of the C-27J is about half of the C-130 Hercules. The Spartan is capable of carrying a single tracked vehicle, such as the ST Kinetics Bronco, Hagglunds Bv 206 or Sisu NA-110.
Main advantage of the C-27J is a capability to make extreme maneuvers, what is unusual for this class of aircraft. In 2009 during the AirPower show, which took place in Australia, this cargo aircraft performed maneuvers, such as barrel roll, loop, as well as low passes with minimum speed in landing configuration with an open ramp, thus simulating an airdrop operation. However the culmination of this show was a maneuver, in which this plane held 90° vertical position of the wings for 8 seconds.
Since 2001 the C-27J Spartan participated in the US demo tours is support of the US Army's future cargo aircraft program. In 2005 Spartan took part in this program for the third time and during demo tours performed on cold weather trials, conducted combat offload, paradrop from ramp and CDS airdrop, paradrop using side doors, LAPES capability with 2 500 kg, LAPES capability with 5 000 kg, short field take off and landing capability, transported various loads and vehicles.
In 2007 the C-27J became the winner in the US Joint Cargo Aircraft program. It's competitor was the EADS CASAC-295. The Spartan is due to replace the existing C-12 Huron, C-26 Metroliner and C-23 Sherpa in service with the US Army National Guard.
Currently a gunship version of the C-27J Spartan is being actively discussed due to the high maneuverability of this aircraft. It should be noted, that it is the only aircraft in it's class, that can reach 3g doing tight turns, fast climbs and descends. Another important feature of this aircraft is that it needs only 300 m long runway in order to land and 500 m to take off with maximum load.
The Spartan cargo aircraft is in service with Italy, USA, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Morocco, Romania and Slovakia. Comparable aircraft are Antonov An-26, An-32, EADS CASA C-295 and Transall C-160.