Warplanes: AC-208s In Iraq

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October 31, 2016: Iraq has ordered two more Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft equipped with laser designators and launch rails on each wing that can hold up to four Hellfire missiles. So equipped these commercial aircraft are designated AC-208 (AC means gunship) and Iraq already has four (plus one that crashed in March) of them plus three unarmed 208s used for reconnaissance.

The Cessna Caravan 208 is a single engine aircraft designed to carry nine passengers or about a ton of cargo. In 2008 Iraqi began receiving unarmed 208s and equipped them with the same sensors and targeting pods used on the Predator UAV. Hellfire equipped Cessna Caravan 208s have been used by the Iraqis since 2009 with great success. The Cessna 208 has been around since 1984 and over 2,600 have been built so far. New ones cost about $2.5 million. Turning one into an AC-208 costs over half a million dollars. A two man crew operates the AC-208 version.

Iraq has a growing number of helicopters, trainers and recon aircraft equipped to use Hellfire so along with the two new AC-208s Iraq also ordered more AGM-114K/R Hellfire II missiles. The K model is for use against armored vehicles while the R model has a warhead that is effective against personnel and structures, as well as lightly armored vehicles. So far Iraq has ordered over 6,000 Hellfire missiles, most of them 114Rs. The largest order (for 5,000) came in July 2015. Air support by Iraqi aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles is very popular with Iraqi troops because the pilots are Iraqi and work hard to make every missile count.

 


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