Warplanes: Small, Inconspicuous, Deadly


October 31, 2012: The U.S. is supplying Afghan special operations troops with 18 PC-12/47E transport aircraft. These aircraft are very similar to U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) U-28As [PHOTO]. Both are military versions of the Pilatus PC-12 single engine transport. This aircraft has a max weight of 4.7 tons and a payload of 1.5 tons. The U-28 can carry nine passengers (plus one pilot) or over half a ton of cargo. Cruising speed is 500 kilometers an hour and average endurance is five hours per sortie.

The U.S. Air Force operates twenty U-28s for SOCOM and has three on order. U-28s have been seen operating over and landing in Somalia, where the small, unmarked aircraft go largely unnoticed. That's because most of the aircraft seen there are one or two engine propeller driven planes smuggling something. U-28s are often spotted in other areas where SOCOM is active.

The PC-12 entered service 18 years ago and over a thousand have been built (in Switzerland) so far, mainly used by civilian operators. It's popular as a corporate passenger aircraft, as an air ambulance, and an airliner in remote areas. The PC-12 is known for being easy to fly, reliable, and rugged. Just the sort of aircraft SOCOM operators appreciate.