June 5, 2016:
The United States is spending $35 million to equip five Cessna 208B aircraft as ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) aircraft for Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Philippines. This includes developing a kit so that a camera pod and electronic sensors can easily be added to a 208B.
Afghanistan and several Middle Eastern countries have already been buying and using 208B transport aircraft for recon work. The 208B is a large, single engine, aircraft that can carry up to 14 passengers or 1.3 tons of cargo. It costs about half of what the more popular (in the U.S. armed forces) twin engine King Air does and is already popular as a passenger/cargo aircraft in remote parts of the planet. The four ton 208B has a cruising speed of 317 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for about six hours per sortie. The 208 has been in service since the mid-1980s and over 2,000 have been built. New ones cost about $2 million each. Add reconnaissance equipment and training and you are still under $10 million.