US SDAF Buying Cessna C-208B Caravan Light Planes
In June 2012, Cessna Aircraft Co. in Wichita, KS received a $12.4 million (face value) firm-fixed-price contract to purchase 4 C-208B Caravan aircraft for the Special Defense Acquisition Fund inventory, as well as training for 16 pilots, and 14 maintainers “for future international partner needs.” Work will be performed in Wichita, KS, and is to be complete by Nov 30/13. The ASC/WNZI at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract (FA8617-11-C-6209, PO 009), which has been used before to buy aircraft for Afghanistan.
After spending decades forgetting the useful role of “Grasshopper” and “Bird Dog” observation planes on the front line, recent conflicts have re-taught the lesson to the US military. Cessna’s 208 Caravan single-engine turboprops are being used by Iraq and Afghanistan as pilot trainers, and Iraq has taken additional steps with their fleet. Some of their C-208Bs have become reconnaissance planes by adding surveillance turrets, internal displays, and communications systems for transmitting the video and pictures they receive. This is much cheaper and easier for many air forces than operating UAVs. Some of Iraq’s aircraft have even taken the next step, and become AC-208B “Combat Caravans” that can fire laser-guided rockets or Hellfire missiles. This range of options offers a useful template for affordable, manageable, and effective assistance to friendly governments with security problems.