The armed Cessna/ATK AC-208B Combat Caravans of the Iraqi Air Force are apparently a success. Just before Christmas another shipment of 75 AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armour missiles arrived in the Southwest Asian country, where they will be used mostly to take out Iraqi enemies of the state (suspected insurgents) with help of CIA targeting analyses.
It is The New York Times who broke the story about the recent weapons delivery.
Although originally designed to be launched from helicopters, the Hellfires have proven their combat worthiness strapped underneath armed drones in recent years. The Iraqi Air Force uses them on its three combat adapted Cessna 208 Grand Caravans, modified by ATK at Meacham Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. The counter insurgency (COIN) aircraft have been firing away ever since the first Hellfire launch by the type in Iraqi service in 2009.
The ATK improvements on the AC-208B include the STAR Mission System, to provide the typical crew of 3 with both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities. Tactical displays help the crew to find their targets, while extra protective plates and a self-defence suite give the crew protection from ground fire. A laser designator and up to six sensors are stowed away in the L-3/Wescam MX-15D turret on the aircraft.
Apart from the three AC-208Bs, the Iraqi Air Force flies 3 RC-208B reconnaissance aircraft and 5 C-208B trainers. The Iraqi government also has 18 air force Cessna 172s at its disposal. The Cessna 172s are mainly flown by the 201st Training Squadron out of Tikrit (Al Sahra), while the C-208s are officially attached to the 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron at Kirkuk.
UPDATE 24 JANUARY 2014: The Government of Iraq requested another 500 AGM-114K/R Hellfire missiles.
© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger with source information from US DoD and USAF