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Two Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense and modified to perform airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks were handed over to the Philippine military. Philippine Defense Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana said that the aircrafts will be used to conduct patrols off the waters surrounding the country.
The Philippine military is embroiled in a battle since late May against militants linked to ISIS, in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The Armed Forces of the Philippines have been actively involved in airstrikes against the militants. However, the lack of ISR capability has meant that Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion aircraft from the U.S. Navy and from Australia, along with U.S. unmanned aircraft, have been providing persistent overland ISR support to the Philippine military in the city.
The two aircrafts were procured in early May 2016 under separate DoD contracts funded under section 2282 of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund for the capacity-building of foreign military, maritime or border security forces to conduct counterterrorism or other operations that benefit the national security interests of the United States.
Photos seen by Defense News of the Cessna 208Bs at the base showed that one of them is carrying the U.S. civil registration N320ZZ, which U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records indicate is one of six similar aircraft registered by the U.S. Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center, the contracting authority for the program. The FAA records for this aircraft have been amended in late June stating that they have been installed with an FAA-approved temporary extended-range fuel system, which perhaps indicates that they were being prepared for delivery at the time.
The six aircrafts are fitted with the L3 WESCAM MX-15 high-definition imaging and electro-optical/infrared sensor for airborne full-motion video surveillance in a central housing. The sensor is integrated with an onboard airborne operator sensor console and will also have Harris ultra high/very-high frequency and high -frequency radios for air-to ground and air-to air communications.
Under one of the contracts, North American Surveillance Systems of Titille, Florida, was awarded an almost $40 million contract for modification and integration of ISR capabilities into six Cessna 208B aircrafts and for training and field-service representative support.
Other than the Philippines, the other aircrafts were earmarked for Cameroon and Chad, while Niger was to receive continued field-service representative support, spares and crew training for existing aircraft. A separate $14.19 million contract for L3 was awarded on the same date for the production of ISR capabilities and spares for the aircraft.