Lebanon, which has ISIS on their doorstep, has just announced they are upgrading a number of their Cessna C-208B, single engine turboprop, aircraft to the ATK Orbital AC-208B configuration. The AC-208B aircraft were designed for the Iraqi Air Force last year. This cheap strike platform is ideal when facing an enemy with no air force or long range anti-air capability.

(Not gun related, but I thought this was pretty nifty)



  • Stephen Beat

    This is actually a very interesting subject and isn’t a ‘crazy’ idea. In fact the US and British air forces were looking into ‘low tech’ attack aircraft for use in Afghanistan at the height of the conflict (the premise being it was inefficient to bomb a $10 mud hut with a $30Million fast jet, though running costs, stability of gun platform for strafing and loiter endurance also came into it). I think they even got as far as identifying modern turboprop aircraft that could fill the role – like the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 and the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano – but as the war wound down nothing came of it.

    • MR

      I may be totally misreading the situation, but it seems to me that a Predator drone would fill a similar role, at least for the U.S., with the long loiter endurance, recon attributes, etc. Not low tech, though.

      • TexTopCat

        Is a Predator done as cheap as one of these planes?
        I would think a human on board would make recon better.

        • marathag

          Or get a rep like the USAAF during WWII

          When the RAF flew overhead, the Nazis would go shelter

          When the Luftwaffe flew, the US and British would goto ground.

          When the USAAF flew over, everyone hid.

        • Evil13RT

          Reapers cost more than A-10’s at present. More per hour as well.
          A counter insurgency plane like this is far cheaper.

          When your enemy has no air defense, it’s certainly the way to go.

      • Bill

        Drones have a very high loss rate in non-combat accidents. The loss rate is five or six times that of manned combat a/c. IIRC, most write-offs occur during landings. You can Google for specifics if you want. When loss rate is factored in, drones aren’t as cheap as they appear.

    • n0truscotsman

      People have been advocating for low cost COIN aircraft for years, yet nothing comes of it because tech is sexy. Like stealth fast movers, drones, and anything else in between. Good stuff if you need it, although for the types of wars we will be fighting in the future?

      We could have used A-1 skyraiders (integrated for modern fighting force communications) in afghanistan and they could have provided better CAS in many instances. For a dirt cheap cost that would have made the A10 look expensive.

    • Cal S.

      Why not just restore a squadron or two of the A-26s from WWII? Might as well be classy if we’re going retro, right?

  • MR

    Makes me feel better about gluing sidewinders onto model Cessna’s, when I was a kid

    • GT

      You were ahead of your time !!:)

    • Patrick Mingle

      you were such a forward thinking child!

    • Tassiebush

      The missile or the snake? Either would be cool! 😉

    • phuzz

      Certainly the early models of the Sidewinder didn’t need much from the aircraft other than a few electrical connections, so it’s a surprisingly realistic idea.

  • David P.

    Great idea you destroy the enemy physically and mentally. Nothing would make you feel inferior as to be taken out by a single prop Cessna!!

  • In my humble opinion (other than “just” a gunwriter, I’ve also been an editor for a defense magazine here in Italy for a number of years) it would be an excellent choice for those Countries with no drone capabilities. Not to mention, the signature of Cessna single-engine turboprops is generally too small to be accurately locked by the aiming systems of the MANPADS that ISIS or other terrorist groups may have (think the Strela/Grail system); a threat still comes from AA guns, of which those groups seem to have plentiful, but weapon systems used on those light attack aircrafts can easily take those out before being in range to be targeted themselves.

    • CommonSense23

      MANPADs will have no problem locking on to a Cessna

      • They actually do — a lot. The heat signature of a single-prop aircraft is just too small for MANPADs to lock on effectively. You need a radar-guided system or sheer old AA guns to take one down, and that’s actually the reason why a lot of light recon work is still carried on with small, single-prop aircrafts even by the most modern Air Forces of western Countries.

        • Wetcoaster

          You also have to be tolerant of losses though in a COIN/CAS mission. Flying low and slow doesn’t give an aircraft much energy to evade with and countermeasures don’t work every time.

          Looking at Pucara losses, it looks like 2 Sri Lankan planes were lost to SA-7s. One in the Falklands was shot down by a Stinger, another by small arms.

          • The heat signature of the FMA IA-58 “Pucará” is much higher than that of a single-prop Cessna, but then again, so is the heat signature of most military helicopters, and all of those are indeed easily targeted with MANPADs.

          • Antonino

            Not all MANPADS are targeted by heat signature though. The SAAB RBS-70 uses a manually operated laser, for one example.

          • True, but how likely are you to be shot at with an RBS-70 in Lebanon? If that’s ISIS, HAMAS or Hezbollah they’re using the AC-208B against, then it’s likely they will not have to face the MANPADS threat at all — and even if they were, they’d be 9K32 “Strela” (NATO reporting name: SA-7 “Grail”) and similar systems, which use an IR (a.k.a. heat signature search!) homing system.
            Even should the intended target be equipped with the latest generation MANPADS of the biggest players in the field for that region (the Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani and even Russian industries) they’d all still be passive infrared systems.

          • clearthinkr

            Ok I am not sure what manpads you are talking about but I have shot RC ac with a flare on them with basic stinger on an OH58C. That turbine engine produces a lot bigger signature than that. I think you should refer back to Janes and then come see us.

          • You are speaking of Stingers. We are talking about ISIS threats here, and the most you can find in their hands is Gen.1 and Gen.2 Strela/Grail launchers with uncooled seekers. Those are, like, worlds apart

          • n0truscotsman

            Not to mention MANPADS have a very low Pk ratio anyways (and before somebody decides to bring up “oh but the Stinger!” remember that pk ratios are always, uhm…”massaged” if not out bullshit). And this is against jet aircraft. Not against standoff distances beyond its max effective range (2.2 Kilometers IIRC) where the hellfire really shines.

            In those countries, the Strela-3 was the most common. For those that aren’t milgeeks, the Strela is a 1970s surface to air missile.

        • CommonSense23

          How much Manpad training do you have? Cause I got a decent amount and pretty sure a Cessna is going to be a absolute joke of a target.

          • I have enough career as a defense analyst behind my back to have visited some dozens of manufacturers of MANPADS and related aiming technologies, and all will tell you that you’re free to shoot at a single-engine turboprop with a MANPADS, but that’s less than ideal to do. You’re wasting an expensive weapon and the possibility to miss is too high, because (once again) the heat signature of those small aircrafts is just too low for MANPADS to lock on properly.

            If your trainers told and taught you that it’s OK to take the chance, who am I to contradict them though?

          • guest

            FYI, mr big defence analyst, all soviet-designed MANPADS are tested at much, much less observable targets than a turboprop that’s spewing out a continuous high volume stream of hot exhaust. Even 1st gen sidewinder (!!!) could lock on to ground targets, with poor results but still, and you seriously think that more modern seekers, which are cooled by the way unlike the first gen uncooled seekers, will have a problem locking on to a cessna… sorry, but it is a textbook target if there ever was one.
            The only way that thing can make it home is if it either stays well away from the target and uses that Hellfire’s range to full extent, or that it will drop flares like crazy all the time. But, as a defence analyst like you surely knows, even the best flares emit a different wavelength of IR than HC exhaust.

          • Once again, I could post ten thousands (or so) worth of pages that tell the contrary and you still won’t believe it, so that means that I lost the argument… or did I?

            Because you’re talking about Sidewinders and Hellfires here, so maybe I missed a chapter, and even more, you speak of modern cooled seekers, that no matter the year of manufacture, Strela/Grail Gen.1 and Gen.2 shoulder-fired launchers do NOT have; only the generations from Strela-3 onwards sport a nitrogen-cooled seeker, but good luck finding one of those in the hands of a terrorist group, otherwise they would have started shooting down commercial airliners at a reasonable distance from airports all throughout the region a LONG ago.

      • Kivaari

        Even the exhaust can be cooled to almost nothing. We had a spotter in VN with a long and very quiet muffler the length of the fuselage. Cooling the gases would be very easy.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    Israel just fainted. They couldn’t stop laughing.

  • Sam Deeley-Crane

    wonder if they’ll make a gunship version with a with a 103mm on the side like the ac-130

    • Zugunder

      I would imagine recoil from this thing can spoil all the fun for the pilot of such light aircraft.

    • SKSer

      While 103mm might be a bit too much for the bird, a gunner with a 50 cal. could certainly also ruin the day for some guys on the ground….

    • Phillip Cooper

      I think it safe to say there’s not enough lift to do so, to carry the tube let alone the ammunition for it, nevermind to support the extra material needed to reinforce the airframe.

    • Tassiebush

      I’m imagining a Carl Gustav poking out one side and a large cutout for backblast on the other

  • Anton Gray Basson

    So this is hardly a new concept, prop driven ground support aircraft have been around forever and the conversion of existing primarily civilian designs is also not a new thing the most notable would be the Rhodesian Lynx a converted Cessna Skymaster with gun pods, racks of napalm,bombs and rockets.

    • James

      And, from what I’ve read about the Bush war, the reason why the fireforce was so effective was that air support. It may’ve been simple, it may’ve been crude, but it was there, and put ordinance where ordinance needed to be. Air support had an easy majority of kills in the fireforce.

      • n0truscotsman

        I love hearing stories about their innovation and using what they have. It was astonishing what they accomplished with so little.

  • mosinman

    Merica, it may just be time to dust off the sky raider again.

    • Kivaari

      Now that is a great idea. A friend was able to buy one of the SVN craft that were flown to Thailand in ’75. It’s pictured on last years War Birds calendar. If I remember right it was plane number 465. He restored it, and it is beautiful. Two of the 4 out of Thailand were shipped from California to Hawaii for the film “We Were Soldiers”. A wonderful airplane with four 20mm cannon. The air force replaced them with Warthogs, a worthy plane in its own right. The army uses the AH64 in a similar fashion.

      • mosinman

        Yeah I figure they’d be economical to run , they’ve got 4 simple 20mm cannon and plenty of payload. I imagine It’s gasoline radial would be more efficient with modern engine management technology as well as running cooler than a jet engine/ turboprop (I think?)

        • Ken

          I read somewhere that they cost around $900 an hour in fuel, maintenance, and parts wear to keep in the air. You can’t run a jet for anywhere near that.

  • guest

    According to the mercenary memoir War Dogs, a small turboprop can be quite effective and they have been used by private companies in Africa

  • meximan

    wow. So we could field over 100k of these for less than we’ve spent on the JSF and have money left over.

    • nadnerbus

      After Lockheed got done with them they’d be at least 20 million each.

      • Yellow Devil

        To be fair, even an inflated price tag of 20 million each would still be 310 million dollars JSF plane that isn’t even ready for CAS.

  • Damo

    It’s pretty humiliating getting blown up by a Cessna caravan with rockets strapped to it

    • avconsumer2

      That’s no rocket… it’s a Hellfire. The ISIS militants can take pride in that they were sent to Allah via a love note from Lockheed Martin. 😉

  • Southpaw89

    Reminds me of the stories I heard about a Piper L-4 reconnaissance plane being fitted with bazookas on the wing struts back in WWII

  • toms

    Should have mothballed the P51 and skyraiders for a rainy day.

    • nadnerbus

      I loves me some Sandys, but they are so obsolete in a modern force, it would take a ton of money, training, and new logistics to get them going again, even if usable airframes were still around. How many aircraft mechanics are rated to work on radial piston engines? Where do you get new replacement parts? Not to mention the mechanical reliability of those craft were not good compared to modern manufactured ones.

      A-1 was a hell of an aircraft though. Between that and the A-10, the only dedicated CAS aircraft the Airforce and Navy have employed in the last sixty years.

  • تنتهك نفسك

    wow, a caravan with a missile launcher?
    a predator drone would be more than a caravan
    we can pump one out of the factory in less than a day if we had to also

  • Cool Papa Bell

    You people are high. This isn’t a real weapon platform. It’s a marketing stunt to extract money from the defense budget.

    You know, people in other countries have defense departments, too. And every corrupt idea you can dream up? So can they.

  • avconsumer2

    That’s a bad ass Cessna.

  • powerwiz

    Yes! The Arabs are finally mastering propeller technology!

  • swede1986

    Carl Gustaf von Rosen used single engined prop-aircraft to knock out a sizeable portion of the Nigerian air force.

  • I always liked the OV-10 Bronco

  • Yellow Devil

    Yet Hezbollah suffered just enough casualties that neither Israel or Hezbollah want to fight it out in the near future. It probable helps that ISIS is chewing up Hezbollah reinforcements to Assad’s battered regime.

  • rgmarine

    Don’t discount this as an effective offensive weapon. Remember a few years ago when a 16 year od kid landed a cessna in Red Square or when a guy crashed a plane on the White House grounds. What if they were armed with a missile or two?

  • midnitelamp

    wouldn’t B-52s flying Arc Lights pacify larger areas ?