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March 31, 2011—
The Air Force will deploy its newest aircraft, the C-27J Spartan, this summer, about four months later than originally expected due to the challenges of bedding down a new aircraft while also preparing for its initial deployment.

Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, Air National Guard director, told the Daily Report Wednesday that he was confident in the new timeframe and said the Air Force has worked closely with members of industry to fix some of the early problems with the aircraft.

"We're excited about the new capability and we're looking forward to supporting the Army with the new direct-support mission," he said.

The entire C-27J fleet was grounded in December when a routine maintenance check uncovered some metal shavings in the fuel cells. At the time, the heads-up display also was decertified because it was slipping during flight and disrupting the pilots' line of sight, and crews were complaining that the avionics system wasn't up to par, an industry official said.

Those problems have since been fixed and the aircraft has been flying at nearly a 100-percent mission capability rate for the last three weeks, the official said.

Wyatt said the C-27s problems are similar to the ones USAF saw with the C-130J and other new aircraft early on.

"We think we've got those problems solved. It's nothing out of the ordinary for a new aircraft," he said.

As for the deployment, the original March timeframe was set to coincide with an Army combat aviation brigade deployment, but Wyatt said senior leaders determined "there's really no need to do that now" because C-130Js in theater are available to support the mission.