So let’s say you don’t want to be seen, even when you are visible. What do you do? Buy a Camry? That’s pretty much what the United States Air Force’s Special Operations Command did when they bought as many as 24 Pilatus PC-12s, which they designate the U-28A.
Pilatus, a Swiss aircraft manufacturer, has been making the PC-12 since 1994. The single turboprop passenger and cargo craft provides the perfect cover for Air Force spy missions where the usual suspects would bring too much attention. A U-2 flying over China or Russia isn’t going to bring much attention. One flying over the Sudan or Egypt may bring unwanted attention.
Equipped with an array of cameras and other intelligence-gathering instruments as well as passengers, the U-28A can fly over an area and not draw the attention that pure military aircraft would. With its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop droning along, few would suspect the passenger plane of anything. Just how those special ops guys like it. Furthermore, the short field capabilities and rugged nature of this aircraft make it very useful when SOCOM needs to get into unimproved fields in third world countries to pick up a “package”. Yeah, just a courier service.
So, if you ever see a PC-12 fly over you, you might want to get the tin foil hat out. You never know who’s peeking into your windows.
[Image Credit: US Air Force]