PZL visiting South Africa to promote M28 multirole transport

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Representatives from Poland’s PZL Mielec have arrived in South Africa as part of efforts to market the M28 light multirole transport aircraft to South Africa and other customers in the region.

Safomar Holdings is the South African sales representative for the M28 but is also offering the aircraft for sale in six African countries, to both civil and military operators.

Representatives from PZL Mielec (a subsidiary of Sikorsky Aircraft) told defenceWeb that the M28 is ideally suited to Africa as it is cost effective, well equipped, has short takeoff and landing capabilities, is easy to maintain (especially as it uses Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines, which are abundant in the region) and can operate from unprepared surfaces.

A basic aircraft costs approximately $6.5 million but the price would obviously increase depending on what mission equipment is added – the M28 is used by the Polish Navy and Borer Guard for surveillance missions and is fitted with a forward looking infrared, search radar, electronic support measures equipment, droppable liferaft etc. The infrared camera can be a FLIR Systems Star Safire IV or MX-15. Equipment can be both ITAR and non-ITAR depending on customers’ needs.

Shai Shalem, CEO of Safomar Holdings, told defenceWeb that there is large potential in the African market and PZL Mielec representatives are in South Africa to discuss local industrialisation, manufacture, support and systems integration. If a local customer bought the aircraft Safomar and PZL would establish an after sales support/maintenance hub to look after the aircraft. Safomar would also provide training for technicians at its technical school (Safomar also runs helicopter pilot training courses).

Apart from South Africa, Safomar is also promoting the M28 in Mozambique (commercial only), Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana (military only). Another company is representing the type in Botswana. Shalem said several potential customers are very interested in the aircraft, including for United Nations work. One potential commercial customer in Africa has gone to visit the PZL Mielec factory. Company representatives said PZL is currently negotiating the contract for a sale in Europe and if acquired, these aircraft would be used on behalf of the United Nations in Africa.

Shalem said the focus in South Africa is more commercial than military, although Safomar and PZL are eyeing the South African Air Force as a customer to replace its C212 light transports and C-47TP maritime surveillance aircraft. Shalem said the M28 is much cheaper to buy and maintain than something like the C-27J or C295 and Safomar has presented the aircraft to the Air Force and Armscor. However, the South African Air Force has little money for acquisitions and the projects for light transport and maritime surveillance acquisition (Projects Metsie and Kiepie) seem to have been indefinitely deferred.

The M28 has been modified for the maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and search and rescue (SAR) roles. Polish aircraft operating over the Baltic and North Seas fly missions up to eight hours duration at patrol altitudes around 5 000 feet (1 500 m). They also fly Frontex missions over the Mediterranean.

These aircraft carry a 360-degree inverse synthetic aperture radar, high-definition infrared/electro-optical sensors, Automatic Identification System, an infrared/ultraviolet pollution detector, and secure data link. Polish Border Guard aircraft have two cabin operator stations while Navy aircraft with ASW sonobuoy launcher and Magnetic Anomaly Detector have up to four.

The M28 is built in several guises, including for passenger, VIP, cargo, paratroop, medical, search and rescue and maritime patrol missions. Over a hundred have been delivered so far. The M28 has good STOL performance and can land on unprepared airstrips less than 1 000 feet (345 metres) long thanks to its high lift wing, thrust reversing propellers and low pressure tyres. It is powered by two 1 100 hp (820 kW) Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6-65B turboprops which are protected by inlet particle separators. They are able to operate with almost no limitation between -50 and +50 degrees Celsius.

The 16 500 lb (7 500 kg) M28 can carry 5 000 lb (2 300 kg). Its range with 19 passengers is 480 nautical miles (890 km). It can cruise at speeds of up to 192 knots (356 km/h) and stalls at 53 knots with engines idling and flaps extended. Service ceiling is up to 25 000 feet (7 600 m) with crew oxygen.