In a surprise move, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) has revealed a lease deal for two M28 Skytrucks. German evaluation of the twin-turboprop has been going on for some time. In Luftwaffe service the M28 will be mainly used for parachute jump training.
A first Skytruck has apparently already been handed over while a second aircraft is still at PZL awaiting delivery. The second airframe is fitted with a cargo pod under the fuselage which has a useable volume of 46cu ft and a maximum payload of 660lb.
Parachute training within the German armed forces has so far been performed with the C-160 Transall. The A400M, which is replacing the C-160, is too large for some parachute exercises.
The M28 Skytruck is a variant of the Soviet-designed Antonov An-28 with new Pratt & Whittney Canada PT6A-65B engines equipped with five-bladed propellers, and new (Western) avionics.
As well as the second German aircraft, the PZL factory currently has up to five ‘white-tail’ aircraft. PZL Mielec hopes that the current lease will lead to a permanent a larger order from the Luftwaffe.
The deal will provide further ammunition to critics of the A400M, the Luftwaffe requirement for which has already been reduced from an original total of 75 aircraft to 60, and then further cut to 53 aircraft. Initial deliveries to the Luftwaffe were late, owing to delays with the programme. In late January 2011 it was revealed that the German parliament was discussing the possibility of selling on 13 of its allocated aircraft immediately after delivery.
Since the A400M is considered unsuitable for certain tactical airlift scenarios, the German government announced the planned acquisition of six C-130Js in April 2017. They will be operated by a joint Franco-German unit.