Despite all of the high-tech fighter hours flown in theater, Hawker Beechcraft’s twin-propeller King Air 350 continues to gain traction as an affordable, long-endurance option for light cargo delivery in remote areas – and effective manned battlefield surveillance and attack. Iraq’s Air Force was the first to order them, and an initial 6-plane UC-12W order from the US Marines/Navy followed in July 2008.
Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pushed hard to improve ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) capabilities on the front lines, and one of those planned purchases involved about 30 King Air 350/ C-12 aircraft for the Army. These “MC-12s” have proven to be very useful as a component of the Army’s Task Force ODIN, which has combined the respective advantages of UAVs and manned aircraft to improve aerial surveillance and response over Iraq. ODIN is credited with a number of successes on the ground, and the concept is being exported to Afghanistan. Part of that process involves buying new, updated aircraft, and the US military continues to buy KA350 turboprops for use in different configurations.