The militaries of Chad and Cameroon will soon be introducing Cessna Grand Caravans into service after aircraft were delivered from the United States. Two Grand Caravans in military camouflage were seen transiting Gran Canaria, Spain, on 12 January. Although they had their roundels partially taped over, it was possible to make out yellow and red markings indicating Cameroon’s Air Force is the recipient.
The temporary registration numbers (N339ZZ and N337ZZ) indicate the Cessna 208Bs were manufactured in 2016 and are owned by the United States Air Force. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) records, the aircraft were in late 2017 installed with temporary extended range fuel systems, presumably for their ferry flight to their destination.
On 30 November last year, two Grand Caravans were seen transiting Gran Canaria on their way to Africa. They (N329ZZ and N332ZZ) were in Chadian Air Force camouflage and were subsequently in January seen at an air base, most likely in Chad, where they were fitted with side-mounted L-3 Wescam MX-15 electro-optical surveillance turrets.
In May 2016 the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Centre awarded contracts for the modification of six Grand Caravans for Cameroon, Chad and the Philippines, with a further contract for the aircraft that September. Work was due to be completed by 30 September 2017.
L-3 Communications was contracted to configure the aircraft for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role – the aircraft are intended to combat terrorism. In addition to the MX-15 turrets on the Chadian aircraft, all four Grand Caravans seen in Gran Canaria feature bumps under the cockpits, indicating a surveillance package as they are different to the panniers often fitted to the type.
Chad’s Grand Caravans may already be in service – on 24 January the United States’ military’s Africa Command said the US Air Force had deployed a team to Chad’s capital N’Djamena, which was working to erect three Large Area Maintenance Shelters (LAMS) to house some of Chad’s aircraft, including Cessna 208Bs “which are scheduled to arrive soon”. The first shelter is 85% complete and the team is scheduled to complete all three shelters by mid-February, Africom said.
The United States has donated a number of Caravans to African countries in support of peacekeeping and counter-terror operations. The Niger Air Force received two Cessna 208Bs in July 2013, but configured for transport tasks. In June 2014 the US government donated two new Caravans to the Mauritania Islamic Air Force to boost its capacity to conduct patrols to counter maritime crimes and regional terrorist groups. Another recipient of Caravans from the United States is Uganda, which received two aircraft on 16 March 2015, to support the Ugandan contingent battling al Shabaab militants in Somalia.