The US Air Force (USAF) has reached 600,000 flight hours in its Pilatus PC-12 (U-28A in USAF service) turboprop utility aircraft.
USAF spokesperson Captain Savannah Stephens said on 18 February that 328,000 of those flight hours supported flight operations outside the contiguous US (OCONUS). The initial block of U-28As were procured and modified for use in Operation Enduring Freedom, which lasted from 2001 to 2014, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, which lasted from 2003 to 2011.
A U-28A assigned to the 319th Special Operations Squadron parked on the flight line at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on 12 August 2020. The aircraft, a modified Pilatus PC-12 turboprop utility aircraft, has reached 600,000 flight hours in USAF service. (US Air Force)
The U-28A is a modified single-engine aircraft and is part of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) manned airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) fleet. The aircraft provides manned fixed-wing tactical airborne ISR support to humanitarian operations, search and rescue, and conventional and special operations missions.
The U-28A enterprise receives its maintenance support from Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC), which provides contractor logistics support (CLS). CLS for the U-28A provides nose-to-tail maintenance that includes depot-level maintenance to maintain airworthiness, scheduled phased maintenance, and aircraft modifications.
Capt Stephens said AFSOC, in co-ordination with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the U-28A programme office, and SNC, will continue to seek capability upgrades to the U-28A to meet Pentagon, National Defense Strategy (NDS), SOCOM, and AFSOC priorities. A request for comment was made to SNC prior to publication.
AFSOC fielded the U-28A through the purchase of commercially-available aircraft and subsequent military modification. These modifications include tactical communications capabilities, aircraft survivability equipment, electro-optical (EO) sensors, and advanced navigation systems.