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Air Platforms

US seeks AC-208 armed Grand Caravans for allies

26 March 2018
Seen here in Iraqi service, the AC-208 is ideally suited to low-intensity counter-insurgency operations through its ruggedness, persistence, and the combination of its sensor and weapons packages. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) is to acquire AC-208 armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft for allied air arms.

A request for information (RFI) issued by the service on 23 March calls for 22 aircraft equipped with electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, secure communications, datalinks, and air-to-surface guided rockets.

“The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance and Special Operations Forces (ISR/SOF) Sensors, Foreign Military Sales (AFLCMC/WINI) is conducting market research to identify potential sources who may provide the [aircraft],” the RFI stated.

Under the terms of the RFI, the aircraft should be fitted with a WESCAM MX-15D EO/IR Sensor (with laser target designator and real-time image downlink to ground forces); a Harris RF-7800M-MP multiband radio set; as well as BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guided rockets. The APKWS will be certified through a USAF process known as Seek Eagle, whereby the service certifies that weapons can be carried and separate safely from an aircraft, and that they can hit the target. It should also come equipped with a mission system control/display/recording/processing node with post mission recorded data transfer to ground node capability.

The RFI did not disclose a delivery timeline nor a prospective contract value.

This solicitation follows a number of recent Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of C-208B Grand Caravan aircraft that have been modified to the armed AC-208 Combat Caravan standard by Orbital ATK. The company recently upgraded the AC-208 to the Block 2 standard, which it names Eliminator.

The AC-208 Eliminator effectively doubles the aircraft’s weapons load, allowing for the carriage of two Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and/or two rocket pods on dual-launchers under each wing, compared with just one of each on the baseline aircraft.

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