Sofex-King Abdullah AFB Amman 2018

By Sam J Basch

Static Display

Sofex, official name of Jordan's special operations forces exhibition, was hosted at the King Abdullah I air force base outside Amman from 7 to 10 May 2018.

This 12th edition of the biennial event proved a surprise, with numerous new air assets for the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) on show. A recently delivered MIL Mi-26T2, the world's largest helicopter, literally dwarfed all aircraft in the static display.

Built by Rostvertol, part of Russian Helicopters, it is the first of four to enter service with the RJAF. It features a glass cockpit with five multifunctional displays, upgraded navigation system and digital autopilot. The new avionics suite enables the T2 version to operate with a crew of only two. An additional operator is used when external cargo is lifted. This helicopter can transport 82 troops or lift 20 tons of equipment, including vehicles.

At the opposite scale was the PZL Mielec/Sikorsky M28 Skytruck utility transport aircraft. Derived from the Antonov An-28, the Polish-built Skytruck on display is an upgraded version for tactical operations, specifically for Jordan's Quick Reaction Force. As a STOL aircraft it takes off in 1 800ft (550m) and has a maximum payload of 2 300kg. PZL Mielec is now part of Sikorsky, in turn owned by Lockheed Martin. The factory produces 10 M28 aircraft per year.

Jordan's Quick Reaction Force also uses the Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk, acquired from the United States as former US Army assets. These were upgraded, like the RJAF's Bell AH-1F Cobra's the first of which was shown at Sofex.

In a spectacular opening ceremony, Jordan's special operations forces neutralised a group of 'insurgents', using an array of air assets, including the Cobras and a different model of Black Hawk, i.e. the Sikorsky UH-60L Black Hawk.