Part of Sikorsky, PZL Mielec is promoting its M28 twin turboprop aircraft during DAS15 with the company from Poland touting the aircraft’s multimission STOL capabilities. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B turboprop engines giving the aircraft a total take off power of 2,200shp, PZL Mielec’s all weather utility aircraft is capable of operating in austere conditions both during daytime and at night.
The company’s M28 is the successor of the earlier M28B Bryza, which in turn is a derivative of the Antonov An-28 that was licence built by PZL Mielec. Their latest aircraft needs a runway of a mere 1,800ft (548m) in order to get airborne while the aircraft’s landing distance is given by PZL Mielec as 1,640ft (499m). Its double fin empennage and rugged tricycle landing gear allow the versatile aircraft to cope with unprepared surfaces and this capability has resulted in the M28 having become one of US SOF’s most dependable air assets. Being used to support forward operating bases spread across Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, the M28 has shown to be capable of dropping supplies from the air with an unprecedented level of precision according to Mariusz Kubryn, chief of PZL Mielec’s design organisation. Equipped with automatic slats, the aircraft has a stall speed of 64 knots or 118km/h at MTOW. Thus, when flying very slow and at low altitude this means that the containers and bundles that are being parachuted descend into a dropzone that can be kept very small and hence secure which is a major operational benefit, especially for small groups of special forces stationed at remote outposts.
The latest version of the M28, the M28-05, can carry a 2t payload in its cabin while another 300 g can be carried in the aircraft’s underfuselage pod. Heavy equipment can also be accommodated using a hoist that can lift up to 700kg. PZL Mielec claims the aircraft can carry 17 paratrooper or 19 passengers and touts the aircraft’s very high rate of climb which tops at 12.29m/s and which has made the M28 very popular for parachute training too. Hence, it is not surprising the aircraft has recently been selected for a multi year contractor run training scheme under which three aircraft will be used to support parachute training by the German armed forces. The decision to opt for the M28 is partly a result of delivery delays with Airbus DS’ A400M and the fact that the German Air Force’s current aging C160 Transall transports have a limited availability due to obsolescence issues. In addition the M28 is much cheaper to operate than either of these two aircraft.
Operating at 10,000ft, the 7.5t M28-05 has a maximum range of 860nm (1,592km) and an endurance of 6.2 hours including a 45 min. reserve. However, the aircraft’s maximum ceiling is given by PZL Mielec as 25,000ft (7,620m). A testament of its multimission capabilities, the M28 is also available for maritime surveillance missions with eight M28B aircraft already being operated for this purpose by the Polish navy. This includes a single aircraft that was modified with ASW equipment according to Kubryn. More aircraft are likely to be modified if funding becomes available, he stated. MT was told that the last batch that was delivered to the Polish armed forces includes 15 PT6 powered aircraft for the air force including ten aircraft that are equipped with a glass cockpit. Prior to this, a batch of 12 M28B aircraft was handed over to the air force, Kubryn indicated. These aircraft still feature the same Russian engines which were also used on a small number of aircraft delivered to the Polish military in the early 1990s. The Polish border guard is also known to use one M28 aircraft which routinely operates on behalf of the EU’s FRONTEX agency. The US military ordered a total of 17 aircraft, Kubryn said, one of which was ordered some years before the US DoD decided to order 16 M28s in 2010. Two of the latter aircraft apparently never saw operational service and have been handed over to a law enforcement agency. Designated C-145A in US military service, the M28 is operated under AFSOC’s Non Standard Aviation (NSAV) scheme complementing U-28 (PC-12) and C-146 (Dornier 328) aircraft. Kubryn disclosed that other M28 operators include Nepal’s military (2), the Indonesian police (4), the Vietnamese air force (2) while Venezuela apparently received a total of 24 aircraft some years ago, twelve each for the country’s national guard and its air force. However, only a small number is still believed to be operational. Jordan that has two aircraft on order under a contract that was announced in 2013 will soon receive its second aircraft, Kubryn indicated. The current production rate is 6 aircraft annually but this could be expanded to 15 aircraft in order to meet any rise in demand, he said.