Nepal is to receive a pair of PZL Mielec M28 short take-off and landing (STOL) light transport aircraft under a contract announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD) on 1 March.
The USD18.98 million Foreign Military Financing (FMF) award to the Polish aircraft manufacturer covers two of the latest Block 5 aircraft, as well as services and support. The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to Kathmandu by 20 December.
The Nepalese Army Air Wing already has one M28 in its inventory, which was donated by the Polish Air Force in 2004. However, this aircraft crash-landed at Kolti Airport in 2017 with images posted of the scene indicating that the damage was beyond economical repair.
A westernised development of the Soviet-built Antonov An-28 'Cash' light transport aircraft, the M28 made its maiden flight in 1993. When US helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky acquired PZL Mielec in 2007, the fixed-wing M28 largely fell by the wayside as efforts were focused instead on the rotary-wing S-70i Black Hawk. The arrival of Lockheed Martin in 2015, with its C-130 Hercules heritage, has seen a renewed and reinvigorated effort to market and sell the M28 with promotional tours around Latin America and the developing world in particular.
The M28's rough-field and STOL capabilities make it well suited to the harsh operating environment of Nepal. Fitted with a fixed tricycle undercarriage, the M28 has a maximum payload of 2,300 kg (300 kg of which can be carried in a ventral baggage pod) with rear cargo doors for easy on/off-loading; requires a runway of just 500 m (needing only 204 m to land); has a maximum speed of 192 kt; a service ceiling of 25,000 ft; and a range of 1,673 n miles (ferry with additional cabin tanks).
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