US buys Afghanistan “Eliminator” attack planes—Cessnas with Hellfires

Enlarge / An Iraqi Air Force AC-308 Eliminator fires a Hellfire missile. Afghanistan is getting 7 of these aircraft courtesy of the US Air Force. (credit: US Air Force)

The US military has fought the Taliban in Afghanistan for 16 years now, and frequently has done so from the skies with Hellfire strikes by Predator and Reaper drones. Now the US is buying the Afghan military something with the same sort of sensors, loitering time and firepower—except humans will have to sit in their cockpits.

The US Air Force has inked a new deal with aerospace and defense company Orbital ATK to provide seven AC-208 Eliminator attack and reconnaissance aircraft. The Eliminator is a militarized version of the Cessna 208 Caravan, the aircraft used by the FBI and various contractors to fly aerial surveillance in the US—including flights over Baltimore in 2015 after the death of Freddy Gray in police custody.

The contract for the Eliminators was originally issued last September, and part of the $86 million is coming out of fiscal-year 2017 funds. The original sole-source contract was for $69.4 million, but was expanded in the award made this past week.

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