February 17, 2009: 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 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. 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).