If the Cessna Caravan looks familiar to you, it should. Cessna has built more than 2,500 of these turboprops since the prototype flew in 1982. They’re popular as short-haul airliners.
But there are a small number of Caravans that haul Hellfire missiles, electro-optical targeting, and reconnaissance systems.
The Tunisian military will next year receive two specially modified Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft from the United States to assist in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, reports media outlet DefenceWeb.
The Caravans will be used to conduct border patrols as they will be configured for ISR purposes “to aid in Tunisia’s border security efforts.”
According to US Department of Defence spokesperson, the Congress was notified of a Tunisia ISR contract which included Cessna 208 Caravans “as a Section 333 capacity building initiative in support of US Africom.”
Section 333 programmes provide training and equipment to the national security forces of foreign countries for the purpose of building the capacity of such forces to conduct operations such as counter-terrorism.
On 30 September, US company ATI Engineering Services was awarded a $9 690 087 order for a “Tunisia intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system. This delivery order provides for two aircraft, support equipment and spares. Work will be performed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be completed by 30 November 2022,” the contract notice read.
“Fiscal 2021 Building Partnership Capacity funds in the amount of $9 690 087 are being obligated at the time of award,” the US Department of Defence said.
The new Tunisian military aircraft will also be equipped with encrypted communications, a data link, night vision system and sensor turret according to Africa Intelligence.
The US government has previously provided grant aid funding for 14 Grand Caravan EX aircraft procured through foreign military sale cases or security assistance donations, with Rwanda being the latest recipient.
But Combat Caravans aren’t just serving in Rwanda. Other versions are flying in Afghanistan, Argentina, Honduras, Kenya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Niger, Yemen, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Uganda.
During the 2016 Farnborough Airshow in the U.K., Cessna announced it had received FAA certification and will be offering wing hard-points for the Grand Caravan EX.
Hard-points are structurally reinforced sections of a wing where you mount pylons or the other structures that carry external stores like fuel tanks or weapons. Now that would be Cessna that could go into battle.
By Victor Shalton Odhiambo