This combat Cessna can shoot Hellfire missiles

Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.

The Combat Caravan contains additional sensors and a laser-designator for targets, as well as two points for mounting Hellfire missiles. It also has defensive measures such as ballistic panels and a flare system.

Weapon pylons hold the Hellfire missile, either the laser-designated AGM-114M or the “fire-and-forget” AGM-114K that uses its own radar to stay on target.

An AC-208 Combat Caravan of the Iraqi Air Force fires flares during a test.

An Iraqi air force pilot from the 3rd Squadron fires of some flares from an Iraqi air force Cessna AC-208 above the Aziziyah test fire range in Iraq on Nov. 8. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Bolick)

The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.

The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.

An AGM-114 Hellfire missile leaves the rails of an AG-208 Combat Caravan of the Iraqi Air Force.

A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Other militaries have purchased the Combat Caravan. The planes are in service in Afghanistan, Argentina, Honduras, Kenya, and other countries — typically flying ground-attack and reconnaissance missions against Islamic extremists.

While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.

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