UK-BASED 328 Group announced during late September that it had recently delivered the 17th and final Dornier 328 turboprop for operation by US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The aircraft was handed over to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in a ceremony on July 9 at 328 Group’s facilities in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. SNC acted as an agent for acquisition of the aircraft on behalf of AFSOC, which has now designated the type the C-146A Wolfhound.
This marked the completion of a four-year contract worth more than $200 million, including spare parts support. AFSOC accepted the aircraft in three tranches between 2009 and July 2013. The 328 Group purchased 15 of the aircraft outright from various sources, while SNC directly acquired two of the aircraft. The aircraft were purchased from various locations, including Europe, America and Africa. The Dornier 328s were selected to provide critical logistics support for AFSOC.
All 17 Dornier 328s had to meet specific configurations and conditions to include Phase 1-6 inspections. 328 Group completed approximately 220,000 man hours to meet the demands of the programme. Auxiliary power units (APUs) were installed on five aircraft, a retrofit that had only been accomplished once before, which was eleven years ago on a newly-built aircraft. Retrofits on spoilers were also a new undertaking and accomplished on seven aircraft. Other modifications included the fitting of gravel kits, avionic upgrades and a High Frequency communications system, as well as flight deck standardization. Each aircraft underwent six months of modifications, which typically included engine and propeller overhaul and alignment checks to the low utilization programme to achieve the required programme specification.
AFSOC deploys these C-146A aircraft around the world to assist in transportation and humanitarian uses. They are operated by the 524th Special Operations Squadron as part of the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. Crews plan, prepare and execute non-standard aviation (NSAv) missions in support of joint-special operations forces while directly supporting theatre special operations commanders by conducting night vision goggle (NVG) infiltration, exfiltration, resupply and other combat taskings on unimproved runways.