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Orbital ATK receives $69.4M for Afghan air force AC-208 light aircraft

Orbital ATK will fulfill requirements for the Afghanistan air force's AC-208 armed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

By Stephen Carlson
Orbital ATK receives $69.4M for Afghan air force AC-208 light aircraft
An Afghan air force pilot stands next to his AC-208 during a visit by U.S. Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson. Photo courtesy of Resolute Suport Headquarters

Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Orbital ATK has received a $69.4 million contract for the Afghanistan air force's AC-208 armed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

The contract, announced last week by the Department of Defense, falls under pseudo foreign military sales requirement which is not signed by the receiving nation but serves to document the eventual delivery of the systems under the contract. The work will be conducted in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2018.

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The AC-208 Combat Caravan is an armed ISR platform based off the Cessna 208 Caravan light passenger and transport plane. It is a single engine turboprop designed specifically for counterinsurgency operations.

The aircraft can be armed with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and carries it's own laser designator targeting pod. It has a fully integrated digital mission system, AAR-47/ALE-47 Defensive Countermeasures System, and radio data links. It also has ballistic panels for the cockpit and passenger areas for protection against ground small arms fire.

Afghanistan has struggled to build its own air force, and has often been proven unable to maintain and operate some of the more sophisticated platforms provided by the U.S.

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The proposed solution to Afghanistan's lack of trained personnel and facilities has been to provide simpler platforms like the Combat Caravan and Embraer's Super Tucano. These platforms are unsuitable to high threat environments but are capable against light insurgent forces that lack sophisticated air defenses.

The AC-208 has already seen extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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