The Thrush 710P aircraft is a perfectly capable — and kind of hum drum — agriculture crop duster. It carries a large load of chemicals and is easy to maintain and fly in rural conditions.
Which makes it a great plane.
But some mad engineers looked at crop dusters and wondered what would happen if the payload was changed from pesticides and fertilizers to bombs and missiles.
That’s how the Iomax Archangel was made. It’s a lightweight, cheap to maintain, easy to fly, deadly strike aircraft currently in service with the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.
Iomax buys the crop dusters from the Thrush aircraft factory in Albany, Georgia, and upgrades them to military specifications in a North Carolina facility.
Once fully upgraded to the Archangel configuration, the planes are pretty awesome. A two-person crew can keep the plane in the air for 10.5 hours and can carry intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pods or weapons on each of seven external hardpoints.
The Archangel can carry 12 Hellfire missiles, 10 GBU-58 Mk-81 bombs, six GBU-12 Mk-82 bombs, 48 laser-guided rockets, 12 UMTAS laser-guided missiles, or a mix of the above.
Basically, it can put a lot of hurt on a lot of people before the crew comes down for a quick lunch break.
And because of the Archangel’s crop duster roots, the plane can be landed and parked nearly anywhere, even grassy fields.
The company even offers upgraded armor for the cockpit and engine compartment, self-sealing fuel tanks, and an electronic warfare system for the plane.
Of course, the U.S. military isn’t looking for a low-end strike or close-air support platform, but some of its allies are. America has bought a few combat Cessnas to bolster allied air forces against ground threats, but the Cessnas can only carry two Hellfires, a far cry from the Archangel’s dozen.
The UAE military has doubled down on the Archangel, purchasing a batch of them in 2014. The UAE had previously purchased 24 Archangels in 2009 that had been modified from Air Tractor 802 aircraft, but Air Tractor refused to make requested changes to the basic aircraft and Iomax started using the Thrush 710P instead of the AT-802.
The Philippines also bought Archangels modified from the 710P as replacements for its aging OV-10 Bronco fleet.