Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the sale of a military aircraft to Lebanon. The plane is a trusty Cessna 208B Caravan, the “single-engined turboprop, fixed-tricycle landing gear, short-haul regional airliner and utility aircraft” that has cast fear into the heart of many a seagull over the beaches of Lebanon. Its gunmetal grey frame, silhouetted against cerulean skies, tells our enemies that they have about half an hour to find cover before the machine gunner duct-taped to the fuselage finds his range.
I’ve kidded about the Cessna in the past, but maybe the joke’s on me this time. Take a look at this contract:
Orbital Alliant Techsystems Inc., previously known as Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a not to exceed $26,134,804 firm-fixed-price contract for support of the Lebanon Cessna 208B Caravan Program. Contractor will provide one commercial-off-the-shelf Cessna 208B Caravan with a Garmin 1000 baseline glass cockpit, avionics package and Pratt & Whitney PT6A-140 turboprop engine. Modification of this aircraft will include an AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser system, Terma aircraft survivability equipment suite missile warning system, electro-optical infrared imaging system MX-15D, broadcast microwave system data link system, surveillance tracking and recording system mission processor unit obsolescence re-design and hard points on each wing capable of carrying and employing AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Work will be performed at Beirut, Lebanon, and is expected to be complete by May 30, 2016. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. This contract is 100 percent foreign military sales to Lebanon. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-15-C-3035).
Given that Lebanon’s only real airborne military capacity is currently being delivered by Hizbullah’s drones, this sale is a positive development. (Thanks to the anonymous reader who flagged the notice.)
Update: Joshua Landis adds, in the comment section: “Don’t laugh at these things. I sat next to an ex-CIA salesman for these things on my flight to Amman. He claimed you can fly one of these things for $450 an hour, which is $1,000s less than anything else. They are inexpensive to maintain; they land in the desert; they are armored; and they can stay aloft for over 8 hrs without landing. Perfect for surveillance of borders and killing “bad guys,” he said. He has sold dozens in the Middle East, where the market is. Lots to Egypt and Jordan. He said there was lots of resistance to buying these small planes because purchasing officers cannot make much money off commissions because the price is so low. But, he suggested that “these babies” can actually be flown and maintained by local engineers and crew with minimal fuss and expense. More up-scale planes just sit on the tarmac and rot because they are way “too complicated and expensive.”