Warplanes: A Cheap Switch Hitter


June 20, 2012: The U.S. Air Force has purchased another four Cessna Caravan 208B transport aircraft for an "international customer." It's probably either Iraq or Afghanistan because the U.S. had earlier obtained C208Bs for both countries. Last year the Afghanistan Air Force recently received the first three of six Cessna Caravan 208B transport aircraft and is to receive 26 eventually.

The C208B is a large, single engine aircraft that can carry up to 14 passengers or 1.3 tons of cargo. It costs about half of what the more popular (in the U.S. armed forces) twin engine King Air does and is already popular as a passenger/cargo aircraft in remote parts of the planet. The Afghan air force wants these "light transports" to survive and thrive in the many different (in terms of terrain and climate) parts of the country. These first six are also being used to train experienced pilots to fly the 208B.

The four ton 208B has a cruising speed of 317 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for about six hours per sortie. The 208 has been in service since the mid-1980s and over 2,000 have been built. New ones cost about $2 million each.

Iraq has used some of its 208Bs as "Predator replacements." That is done by equipping C208Bs with the same sensors and targeting pods used on the Predator UAV. Some 208Bs have also been rigged to carry Hellfire missiles as well, making the C208B very versatile (either as a Predator clone, a personnel transport, or a cargo hauler).


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