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Air Force Is Sending Brand New Cargo Planes Straight to the Boneyard

Illustration for article titled Air Force Is Sending Brand New Cargo Planes Straight to the Boneyard

The C-27J Spartan is a hell of a plane. Famous for its ability to take off from unfinished runways, it's a staple used by militaries around the world, including the United States. At least it was until recently. The Air Force is sending its latest batch of beautiful, brand new C-27Js straight to the boneyard in Arizona's desert.

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The notion of stashing brand new cargo planes in storage alongside thousands of dead aircraft is sad, but it's sort of everybody's fault. Since 2007, the Air Force has spent some $567 million acquiring the new aircraft—only to realize, in the wake of sequestration cuts, that it actually didn't have enough missions for the planes to fly. This was around the same time that President Barack Obama told the airmen at Mansfield National Guard Base in Ohio, one of the homes of the C-27J fleet, that he would "find a mission" for the planes. Well, he didn't, and now they're going to be rotting in a desert, perhaps forever.

It's not like no one tried to stop this from happening. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told Congress in 2012 that the Air Force couldn't afford to sustain the C-27J, while the Ohio Air National Guard said it could fly the C-130 for a third of the price of the C-27J. Nevertheless, it was apparently cheaper to go ahead and build the new C-27J fleet and send it to the boneyard than it was to just cancel the program altogether. God bless America. Also, why does this keep happening? [Aero News]

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Update (2/4/2014): Good news! Despite the trip to the boneyard, 21 C-27J cargo planes have been given new missions with the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command, home to the Seals and Delta Force. So it looks like the Pentagon might get their money's worth after all.

Image via Wikipedia

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DISCUSSION

"Boneyard" is quite a misnomer. The desert storage facility's climate, combined with the preparation that is done when the aircraft are delivered there, preserves them in good shape for eventual use.

Like it or not, government programs have a lot of inertia behind them. Contracts are signed and so forth. So, when our notoriously capricious Congress decides to change things late in the game, it's possible — as you state — for it to be cheaper to follow through on the contract than to cancel it.