‘Armed Cessnas’ To Lebanon


The U.S. has pledged to supply an “armed Cessna and other support aircraft” to help Lebanon counter the threat from ISIL extremists. David Hale, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, confirmed the deal in a statement released after a meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Saudi Arabia is paying for the aircraft. The Saudi money will also be used to arm a Cessna already in service in Lebanon. Against the backdrop of the all-out U.S. air assault against ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq, the “armed Cessna” announcement may seem unusual but the aircraft being pledged has some teeth.

The AC-208B Combat Caravan is a variation of the Grand Caravan EX, the new, more powerful (867-horsepower) version of the civilian aircraft, but the accessories you can’t get from the Wichita planemaker are the sensor turret on the belly and the wing-mounted hardpoints that hold Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. Onboard fire control stations and “ballistic panels” to harden the muscle-bound Caravan against ground fire are also standard. Of course, all this extra equipment raises the cost of Cessna’s biggest single somewhat. The sticker price on a Combat Caravan is a touch under $15 million compared to the $2.4 million tag on the EX.