USSOCOM’s New Armed Overwatch Aircraft to Replace AFSOC U-28 Fleet

The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)’s new Armed Overwatch aircraft will eventually replace the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)’s U-28 Draco intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft fleet, Air Force Magazine reported citing AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. James Slife.

Under the Armed Overwatch program, USSOCOM is seeking to purchase 75 low-cost, off the shelf aircraft within about five years.

The new aircraft will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF ISR in austere and permissive environments. The aircraft system procured will also support the following missions of AFSOC: CAS, Armed Reconnaissance, Strike Coordination & Reconnaissance, and Airborne Forward Air Control.

According to a notice released on the Federal procurement website,, the USSOCOM’s Directorate of Procurement, on behalf of USSOCOM Program Executive Office-Fixed Wing (PEO-FW), has scheduled an Industry Day event on March 4-5 in support of the possible procurement. The notice added that attendance at Industry Day is required for submissions to the USSOCOM Armed Overwatch Other Transaction Authority (OTA) prototype demonstration formal announcement.

The draft OTA for the Armed Overwatch program is planned for release on 14 February 2020.

U-28A Draco

The U-28A is a modified, single-engine Pilatus PC-12 aircraft used by the AFSOC for manned, airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. In May last year, after more than 13 years in service, the aircraft officially received approval for the naming convention of “Draco” (Latin term for dragon).

The U-28A Draco is part of AFSOC’s Light Tactical Fixed Wing fleet, formerly known as non-standard aviation. Operational squadrons include the 319th, 34th, and 318th Special Operations Squadrons, and the 5th and 19th SOS conduct the airframe’s formal training.

The mission of the Draco is to provide manned fixed-wing tactical airborne ISR support to humanitarian operations, search and rescue (SAR), conventional and special operations missions.

The aircraft reached a historic milestone on June 22, 2018, when the AFSOC aircraft reached the 500,000 flying hours mark.

General Characteristics (released by USAF):

• Crew: 2 Pilots, 1 Combat Systems Officer, 1 Tactical Systems Officer
• Builder: Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
• Power Plant: Pratt-Whitney PT6A-67B
• Thrust: 1,200 hp
• Wingspan: 53 feet 3 inches (16.23 meters)
• Length: 47 feet 3 inches (14.4 meters)
• Height: 14 feet (4.25 meters)
• Speed: 220 knots
• Range: 1,500 nautical miles
• Ceiling: 30,000 feet
• Maximum Takeoff Weight: 10,935 lbs
• Deployment Date: 2006
• Unit Cost: $16.5 million
• Inventory: Active duty, 28; Reserve/ANG, 0 (As of September 2017)

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