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Pilatus U-28

Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) Aircraft [ 2006 ]

The U-28A is an ISR-centric U.S. special forces reworking of the civilian-minded Pilatus PC-12 turboprop-powered utility aircraft.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/14/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In the mid-2000s, during the height of American involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters of war, United States Special Operations COMmand - US SOCOM - required a budget-friendly (commercially-available) light utility aircraft capable of fulfilling very-mission-specific parameters for its special forces missions. The result was the reimagining of the Swiss-originated Pilatus PC-12 passenger/cargo aircraft to become the "U-28". Since their inception, the fleet has been used for a myriad of special-minded tasks including mission support through (manned) tactical Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Search and Rescue (SAR), and humanitarian operations support.

The PC-12 series has seen formal operations since introduction in 1994 and over 1,700 have been built to date - marking it a successful aircraft design for Swiss-based Pilatus Aircraft.

All of the form and function of the original civilian market PC-12 is retained in the U-28 including its single engine layout, crew/passenger cabin, low-mounted wing mainplanes, and single-rudder "T-style" tail unit. A retractable tricycle wheeled undercarriage allows for ground-running. Beyond inherent reliability and excellent performance from its nose-mounted turboprop, the U-28 also showcases short-field / rough-field capabilities.

Where differences end between the U-28 and its civilian market counterpart is in the installed equipment: the platform bristles with tactical communications sets, Electro-Optical (EO) sensors, protected data-links (DoD and NATO types support), real-time full-motion video processing, and survivability systems. These systems result in special protrusions emanating from the fuselage and wing members and not seen in the commercial model.

The U-28's crew consists of four personnel made up of two pilots, a Combat Systems Officer (CSO), and Tactical Systems Officer (TSO). The crew is seated side-by-side in a 2x2 arrangement in the cabin. The instrument panel includes an all-modern glass cockpit.

Power is served from a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67B turboprop engine installed at the nose and used to drive a four-bladed propeller unit in conventional "tractor" fashion. This provides the aircraft with a maximum speed of around 220 knots, a range out to 1,500 nautical miles, and a service ceiling up to 30,000 feet. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) reaches 11,000 lb.

The United States Air Force has operated as many as twenty-eight U-28A models with 14 currently (2020) noted as in-service with the branch. The 34th, 318th, and 319th Special Operations Squadrons are listed as key operators of the type while the 5th and 19th Special Operations Squadrons are charged with the types training.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.

May 2020 - U.S. SOCOM is intending to replace its in-service fleet of U-28 aircraft with the winner of the USAF's "Armed Overwatch" program.



Service Year

Switzerland national flag graphic

In Active Service.


Pilatus Aircraft - Switzerland
(View other Aviaton-Related Manufacturers)
National flag of the United States United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Special-Mission: Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
Specially-equipped platform providing over-battlefield Command and Control (C2) capability for allied aerial elements.
Special-Mission: Electronic Warfare (EW)
Equipped to actively deny adversaries the ElectroMagnetic (EM) spectrum and protect said spectrum for allied forces.
Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Special Forces
Serving Special Forces / Special Operations elements and missions.

47.2 ft
(14.40 m)
53.3 ft
(16.25 m)
13.9 ft
(4.25 m)
Empty Wgt
11,023 lb
(5,000 kg)
11,023 lb
(5,000 kg)
Wgt Diff
+0 lb
(+0 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Pilatus U-28 production variant)
Installed: 1 x Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67B turboprop engine developing 1,200 horsepower driving a four-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
Max Speed
253 mph
(407 kph | 220 kts)
30,003 ft
(9,145 m | 6 mi)
1,740 mi
(2,800 km | 5,186 nm)
2,000 ft/min
(610 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Pilatus U-28 production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
None. Mission equipment consists solely of sensors and systems related to the airborne ISR role.

Supported Types

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
U-28 - Base Series Designation.
U-28A - Primary operational service model.

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Image of the Pilatus U-28
Image from the United States DoD DVIDS imagery database; Public Release.


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