Shaping the Future of Special Operations Air Power: SNC’s MC-145B Coyote – for Armed Overwatch

MC-145B Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

Today’s warfighter operates in a constantly evolving environment where rapidly improving technologies and diverse combat zones pose increasingly complex threats. Under these conditions, the need for a versatile, rugged, top–tier, manned light attack aircraft to support our forces around the globe is more vital than ever.

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)’s Armed Overwatch program recognizes this critical need. Focused on finding an aircraft platform that prioritizes integration with the operator – from mission planning all the way through execution and recovery – USSOCOM awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) one of five contracts to demonstrate the robust and advanced capabilities of its MC-145B Coyote.

With more than 50 years of expertise in aviation innovation, modernization and integration, SNC has proven itself a go-to provider for global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft lifecycle support – designing, developing and delivering rugged hardware and open architecture software for manned and unmanned aircraft.

Before entering the Armed Overwatch competition, SNC approached the program’s needs from a different direction, embracing USSOCOM’s requirements for endurance, austere operations and weapons payload capability with a look toward supporting future challenges. Following a rigorous evaluation process that narrowed down 44 different aircraft, SNC landed on the multi-role strike capabilities of the MC-145B Coyote in partnership with PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company.

As a short take-off and landing twin-engine turboprop, modified from the venerable M28 Skytruck, this utility aircraft is currently operating in 11 countries across the globe, including some of the harshest settings and most extreme environments on Earth.

The two-engine configuration and significant cargo hold enables the aircraft to be self-deployed with a myriad of equipment, eliminating dependence on Air Mobility Command or larger cargo aircraft.

The MC-145B Coyote’s enhanced ability to meet the demands of multiple missions means it can perform the Armed Overwatch mission better than any other platform. Designed for rugged operations, the Coyote’s high wing and durable, fixed tricycle gear are ideal for safe and reliable operations in austere environments. The unique configuration and extensive modifications, including wing weapons pylons, a retractable sensor lift, additional fuel tanks and internal weapons launchers, bring versatility in sensor and weapons employment to best meet SOCOM's ever-evolving needs.

SNC’s enhancements ensure the Coyote stands out from the crowd, with more munitions payload capability than any other aircraft in the competition, including carrying up to 20 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems and deploying the Hellfire air-to-surface missile. To further increase its versatility, the Coyote is also capable of deploying unmanned aerial vehicles and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), a long-range, conventional, air-to-ground, precision standoff missile.

Development of the MC-145B weapons system follows a longstanding collaboration between SNC and Lockheed Martin, previously seen with the Special Operations Forces Global Logistics Support Services team on AC/MC-130J fleet missions worldwide.

And to make sure pilots have all the tools necessary for success, a new digital cockpit provides flight and mission data to pilots while boasting training and logistics commonality with the U-28A Draco (Pilatus PC-12) surveillance aircraft.

But the robust modifications don’t end there. The MC-145B Coyote features both a cabin and a C-130-style, air-operable, rear cargo ramp while also rapidly reconfiguring to air drop, paratroop and casualty evacuation roles. And the Coyote supports self-deployment and resupply of forward operating locations without a reliance on strategic airlift assets.

Initial aerodynamic and flight modelling performed at SNC illustrate feasibility to deploy large, palletized munitions, including JASSM, from the Coyote’s cabin. This capability, in conjunction with payload/power provisions for future long-range sensors and electronic warfare systems, is highlighted as a roadmap toward engagement in both traditional permissive environments and the near-peer fight.

With its reconfigurable nature and innovative, agile modifications, the MC-145B Coyote is prepared not only for the Armed Overwatch mission but to meet any of the challenges that future missions might present.

At SNC, we are shaping the future of special operations air power.