AC-208 Combat Caravan
The Combat Caravan aircraft is a specially modified Cessna Grand Caravan that incorporates an electro-optical targeting system with integrated laser designator, Hellfire laser guided missiles, an air-to-ground and air-to-air data link and aircraft self-protection equipment. ATK's STAR Mission System provides both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities for the mission crew.
The AC-208 designation requires a bit of unpacking. If this were a military designator, AC would indicate an attack variant of a cargo aircraft, and the 208 would be the latest in a numerical sequence. But in this case, while the A is attack, the C is Cessna Caravan and the 208 is the company's designator, generally following a chronological development.
The AC-208 Combat Caravan offers a robust day/night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solution now available with precision counterinsurgency, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR). It is easily convertible from “Clean Wing” ISR to armed operation with Hellfire Missiles. Ownship targeting and weapons employment is provided via integrated targeting and fire control systems. Off-board data links provide full-motion video to ground stations or other aircraft.
The AC-208 Combat Caravan has with 4 hard points for Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire anti-surface missile. It also has sensor pod & sensor operator’s station behind pilot,& carries 10 passengers in utility role. ATK previously said the Combat Caravan had L-3 Wescam MX-15D electro-optical/infrared sensor. The ATK-developed STAR fire control system allows on-board operator to attack targets identified on MX-15D.
The Combat Caravan program was awarded to ATK in 2008. Within 11 months, ATK completed live fire testing and delivered its first aircraft to Iraq. The aircraft holds both a Military and Civil Certification. Alliant Techsystems announced 16 Novemer 2009 that it delivered a third AC-208B "Combat Caravan" aircraft to the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission in Kirkuk, Iraq. To date, ATK has delivered 11 modified C-208 aircraft in support of U.S. Government contracts for rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force: three reconnaissance aircraft, five trainer aircraft and three AC-208B aircraft.
"ATK delivers cost-effective, integrated platform solutions, across a variety of mission areas, at a fraction of traditional cost and timelines," said Bill Kasting, Vice President and General Manager of ATK's Integrated Systems Division. "ATK's Combat Caravan builds upon our successful reconnaissance version of the C-208 aircraft, by providing a robust and versatile light-attack capability."
The UAE had seven Caravans as of 2013, but it was not clear how many of these have been modified to the AC-208 configuration. The Combat Caravan has also been obtained by Lebanon. Major counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in recent years has created a market for light, inexpensive-to-operate turboprops that can provide ground support from spartan airfields.
The Combat Caravan is part of ATK's Special Mission Aircraft product portfolio. The Special Mission Aircraft business provides operationally responsive Intelligence, Surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities by outfitting various aircraft -- including Lockheed Martin C-130s, Bombardier Dash-8s, Hawker Beechcraft King Airs, Cessna Caravans and others-- with networked sensors and weapons that offer affordable, flexible and rapid fielding of capability.
On 12 March 2015 Orbital ATK, Inc. received a US Department of Defense Foreign Military Sale contract to modify existing Cessna C-208B Caravan Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft for the Lebanese Air Force. Orbital ATK originally incorporated electro-optical sensor, communications and aircraft self-protection equipment into the aircraft and will now add strike capability utilizing Hellfire missiles. Following aircraft modification, Orbital ATK provided contractor logistics support for one year.
The gunship capability package is part of Orbital ATK's Special Mission Aircraft product portfolio, which provides affordable, responsive and advanced capabilities to customer-preferred platforms, including a roll-on, roll-off palletized approach. Orbital ATK’s expertise includes outfitting various aircraft -- including the Alenia C-27J, CASA CN-235/295, Lockheed C-130, Bombardier Dash-8, Hawker Beechcraft King Air, Cessna Caravan and others -- with integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and weapons employment capabilities. Orbital ATK’s solution offers networked observation and over-watch, border security and counterinsurgency capabilities that is low-cost and highly reliable and requires minimal personnel and facilities to operate and maintain.
A Cessna AC-208B Combat Caravan operated by the Iraqi Air Force, was destroyed when it crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq 16 March 2016. All crew members on board were reported dead. ISIS claims to have downed the aircraft with 57mm AA-fire, killing five on board [the reported discrepacny in crew size is unexplained]. An Iraqi military official stated that there were three crew members on board the aircraft. He blamed the accident on a "technical problem".
The State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq for AC-208 aircraft and related equipment, training, and support. The estimated cost is $65.3 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on October 6, 2016. The Government of Iraq requested to purchase two (2) Cessna AC-208 aircraft that include: dual rail LAU-131 Hellfire launcher capability on each wing, AN/ALE-47 electronic countermeasure dispenser, AN/AAR-60 Missile Launch Warning System, AN/AAQ-35 ElectroOptical Infrared Imaging System, contractor aircraft modifications, spare parts, publication updates, aircraft ferry, and miscellaneous parts.
Iraq originally purchased three (3) AC-208 and three (3) C-208 aircraft in 2008. The Cessna aircraft are used to support Iraqi military operations against al-Qaeda affiliate and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces. The purchase of two (2) additional aircraft enables the Iraqi Air Force to continue its fight against ISIL. Iraq will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces. This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner. This proposed sale directly supports Iraq and serves the interests of the people of Iraq and the United States.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support does not alter the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractor is Orbital ATK, Falls Church, VA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
- Orbital ATK's STAR Mission System, with the STAR Compact MPU, 18-inch Avedon color display and integrated fire-control system
- MX-15D EO/IR sensor with integrated laser designator and IMU
- AGM-114M/K Missile (other weapons coming soon)
- Wing Hardpoint Installation Missile Pylon Integration
- AAR-47/ALE-47 Defensive Countermeasures System
- Ballistic panels for cockpit and passenger protection
- BMS A/G and A/A data link (other data links available)
- VHF/UHF communications
- Cockpit tactical displays
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