A NOTICE posted on the US Federal Business Opportunities website on December 27 revealed that the US Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center intends to issue a sole source contract to Orbital ATK (Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) to procure, modify and deliver seven Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircraft to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in an armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) configuration. Work will be undertaken at the company’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Following initial delivery in the continental USA and acceptance of the aircraft by the USAF’s 645th Aeronautical Systems Group (645 AESG), the contractor will deliver the aircraft to the AAF Cessna 208B aircrew training location at Fort Worth, Texas. The deal will include the contractor also providing supplies and services including liaison engineering, procurement of parts and equipment, procurement of spares, fabrication, modification, installation, test, demonstration of systems to be installed, technical data and pilot/mission operator/maintenance training.
The AAF has previously taken delivery of 26 Cessna 208Bs, deliveries of which began in October 2011 and were completed in December 2012, but these are all unarmed versions used in the cargo, utility and training roles. Orbital ATK’s armed version, previously known as the AC-208 Combat Caravan is now marketed with the rather more aggressive name AC-208 Eliminator. It can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (two on each wing on dual rails) and 2.75in APKWS, GATR or other guided rockets in wing pods.