Lockheed Martin’s Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec showcased its new manned light attack aircraft designed to support U.S. special operations forces in permissive environments.
The new MC-145B Special Operations Multi-Role Aircraft (SOMA) features multi-role strike capabilities. PZL Mielec is partnered with private contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) for the program.
According to a company news release, MC-145B Soma is the latest variant of a versatile aircraft with many new capabilities added specifically to meet the needs of Special Forces operations by the U.S. and its allies.
As noted by the company, the new plane is a significantly enhanced and modified version of the M28 short take-off and landing twin-engine turboprop, a utility aircraft currently operating in some of the harshest environments across the globe including the deserts of Jordan, the extreme cold of Estonia, and the subtropical forests of Kenya.
The aircraft’s high wing, powerful engines and rugged, fixed tricycle gear are ideal for safe and reliable operations in the austere environments anticipated for the Armed Overwatch mission.
The MC-145B weapon system employs extensive airframe modifications including wing weapons pylons, a retractable sensor lift, additional fuel tanks and internal weapons launchers to accommodate state of the art sensor and weapons system technologies.
The MC-145B features both a cabin and a C-130-style air-operable rear cargo ramp. The aircraft rapidly re-configures to air drop, paratroop and casualty evacuation roles while supporting self-deployment and resupply of forward operating locations without a reliance on strategic airlift assets.
The MC-145B SOMA aircraft is offered to the U.S. Special Operations Command (US SOCOM) in the Armed Overwatch project, formally launched last year. In May 2021, five companies, including Sierra Nevada Corporation, received contracts to build prototypes. One of them will be MC-145B, nicknamed Wily Coyote. In addition to the fact that the machine is to meet the requirements of the Armed Overwatch program, thanks to the design derived from a transport plane, it will be capable of dropping paratroopers and supplies, tactical transport and evacuation of the wounded.
The MC-145B prototype was made in Poland, and in the United States, the additional equipment required for the project was installed. Converting Skytruck into MC-145 required reinforcement of some of the power elements of the wings and the development of weapon and equipment mounting nodes. The project also uses the solutions implemented in the M28B1R Bryzaaircraft belonging to the Polish Navy, including the elongated nose of the fuselage with an optoelectronic head. Under the fuselage, there are to be chambered for additional mission equipment, e.g. a second optoelectronic head, SAR radar or electronic reconnaissance devices. Importantly, the modifications introduced in SOMA can also be implemented in already built M28 aircraft.