U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has bought ten M-28 Skytruck aircraft from Polish manufacturer PZL. SOCOM needed a smaller transport, that could land on rough fields, to get small numbers of troops and supplies to the many scattered bases it has in remote, undeveloped locations. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (a component of SOCOM) will operate the aircraft, which can carry up to 18 passengers or three tons of cargo. Currently, the air force usually has to send a larger C-130 on these missions.
The M28 is a westernized version of the 1960s era An-28 transport. Although a Russian design, PZL became the sole producer of the An-28 in the 1980s, and produced about 200 of them. The 15 ton M-28 has two turboprop engines and a price about half that of a comparable Western aircraft. The M-28 can cruise at 270 kilometers an hour for about five hours per sortie. PZL got the SOCOM sales because of good performance by M-28s with five other export customers (including mountainous Nepal).
AFSOC to get first 10 Skytrucks
By Michael Hoffman – Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Feb 12, 2009 19:29:21 EST
The Skytruck will shuttle small groups of special operators to areas with unimproved landing strips, said Col. JD Clem, deputy director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for AFSOC. It will be based at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., like AFSOC’s other non-standard aviation assets including the PC-12 Pilatus, he said.
“If I need to carry six guys some place, I don’t want to have to send a C-130,” Clem said. “But, if I want six guys to land on an unimproved strip the PC-12 is not the plane to use.”
What it won’t carry is any intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors, Clem said.
“The non-standard aviation is simply to haul people around. There is nothing really cosmic about it at all,” he said.
More info about the AN28/M28: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PZL_M-28
The Skytruck reminds me of another excellent small-to-mid-size transport that’s been around for years, and doing sterling work in supporting low-intensity, counter-insurgency and special operations – the Shorts Skyvan (even the names are similar!). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shorts_SC.7_Skyvan
Skyvan of the Sultan of Oman Air Force during the Dhofar campaign in the 1960s-1970s.
Skyvans currently in use by the Austrian Air Force.