Among its passengers are members of the Navy SEALs and the Delta Force

The AFSOC 524th SOS: the 'airline' of the United States special operations military

In the world of aviation it is common to find civil aircraft that do not wear the livery of any airline. Some are not what they seem.

Janet: an airline with which you will never fly to a place that they claimed did not exist
Sky Warden: the agricultural plane chosen by the US Special Operations Command

Four years ago we already saw the case of Janet, a fake US Air Force airline whose planes carry civilian registration plates and which is based at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and who makes flights to the Groom Lake military base and the Tonopah, Nevada test range, better known as Air 51 and Area 52, respectively, bases whose existence was shrouded in mystery and was a open secret until the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) acknowledged its existence 10 years ago.

A C-146A Wolfhound from the 524th SOS during a special operations exercise at Camp Rudder, Florida, on April 23, 2015 (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

There is another fake airline as exclusive as Janet but that flies to much more varied and dangerous destinations. Their planes also belong to the USAF, although they are decorated like civilian planes, although in this case they have small numerals with their military registration, instead of a civilian registration. It is the only thing that allows them to be identified, since by their appearance they could be identified as civilian aircraft. These aircraft are operated by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The emblem of the 524th Special Operations Squadron (Source: United States Army Institute of Heraldry).

AFSOC is made up of six USAF Special Operations Wings, another two from the Air National Guard and one more within the Reserve Air Force Command. Almost all of its planes, helicopters, convertiplanes and drones wear the classic military gray paint, with one exception: the 524th Special Operations Squadron (524th SOS), part of the 492nd Special Operations Wing and based at Duke Field, Florida, an auxiliary military airport for the Eglin AFB base that has a historical connection to secret operations, since the famous "Doolittle Raiders" trained there in 1942, before they were the first aviators of the US that bombed Japan.

A C-146A Wolfhound from the 524th SOS taking off from a public highway in Alpena, Michigan, in August 2021, during Exercise Northern Strike 21-2 (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard).

The 524th SOS has 20 Dornier C-146A Wolfhound transport aircraft, a military variant of the German Dornier 328 civilian aircraft, which made its maiden flight in 1991. The C-146A is equipped with two turboprop engines Pratt & Whitney Canada PW119C. It can reach a maximum speed of 500 km/h and has a range of 2,778 km, with an operating ceiling of 9,492 meters.

Two C-146As of the 524th SOS at their Duke Field base in Florida (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

Dornier has built more than 200 aircraft of this type, which are in service with civilian companies in eight countries and with the Botswana Armed Forces, as well as the USAF. The C-146A can carry up to 26 passengers and 2,700 kg of cargo, or four stretchers in case it has to carry out medical evacuation missions. It has three crew members: pilot, co-pilot and a cargo manager, and each plane has a cost of 17.6 million dollars.

A C-146A from the 524th SOS taking off from a dirt runway in Avon Park, Florida, on February 28, 2018, during an exercise Emerald Warrior (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

The USAF itself explains the mission of these aircraft on its website: "The C-146A Wolfhound’s primary mission is to provide U.S. Special Operations Command flexible and responsive operational movement of small teams and cargo in support of Theater Special Operations Commands. Airlift missions are conducted by Air Force Special Operations Command aircrews to prepared and semi-prepared airfields around the world."

A C-146A Wolfhound from the 524th SOS taxiing at its base in Duke Field, Fla., on July 21, 2021, during a senior airlift flight (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

Operational with AFSOC since October 2011, the C-146A Wolfhound is dedicated to infiltration, exfiltration, and personnel and supply transport missions anywhere in the world. Its passengers are especially exclusive, since among them are DEVGRU operators and other Navy SEALs teams, the Delta Force of the US Army and also CIA operators. If Janet is an airline where You have to pass very strict controls, the 524th SOS is even more select and its trips are even more secret. In fact, their C-146As are painted white with blue stripes to make them look like civilian aircraft in whatever country they have to land in.


Main photo: U.S. Air Force.

Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:

Comment on this post:

You must login to comment. Click here to login. If you have not registered yet, click here to sign up.