June 23, 2010:
U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) wants to buy a stealthy transport, to deal with nations, like Iran or China, that have, or are trying to get, modern air defense systems (including radars that can easily detect existing transport helicopters and aircraft.) Such a transport doesn't exist, although stealth technology does (in expensive aircraft like the F-22, B-2 and F-35). A new stealth transport would be too expensive for SOCOM, although modifying some B-2s for transport work is possible, but very unlikely. Thus SOCOM has to come up with other solutions. One rather straightforward solution is to buy some transports similar, or identical, to those used by potential enemies. With the right paint job and some clever flight plans (and flying), you could sneak your troops and material in using the time honored "false flag" (pretending to be the enemy) method. SOCOM may have already made a move in that direction. SOCOM has used false flag tactics before.
Last year SOCOM bought ten M-28 Skytruck aircraft from Polish manufacturer PZL. The reason given was that 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 places like Afghanistan. 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 (widely used by nations like Iran and China). Although a Russian design, PZL became the sole producer of the An-28 in the 1980s, and produced about 200 of them. The 7 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).