ISR On The Cheap, Sort Off

Cessna Caravan outfitted for ISR duties. Both the Caravan and Grand Caravan have been outfittted for ISR duries. Textron

SHAH ALAM: The Phillippnes took delivery of two Cessna C-205B Grand Caravan ISR planes from the US on July 28. The two aircraft were gifted as part the US strategy to boost the capacity of its allies to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

Apart from the Philippines, four other similar Caravan ISRs were gifted to two African countries, Chad and Cameroon.

Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana taking delivery of the Cessna. Phlippines DND.

For ISR missions, the Caravan is fitted with a L3 WESCAM MX-15 EO turret, operator sensor console and secured radios.
The location of EO turrets installation on a Caravan.

It is difficult to determine the exact price of the ISR configured Caravan as the US awarded two contracts to two companies to modify the aircraft and produce the mission equipment as well the cost of training, spares and initial support under the program.
However, as a civil Caravan cost around US$2 million (RM8.57 million) per aircraft, I think it is safe to assume that a ISR Caravan will cost around at US$6 million (RM25.7 million) or just slightly higher. This is without the cost of training spares and support of course.
Interior photography of the Textron Cessna Special Mission Caravan with a MedEvac sled and ISR console.

Although the Caravan will be cheap to operate spending RM25 million for a single engine airplane that may need to fly over water, may not be that popular to some air crew. Will the money be better spent on an aircraft already operated in country for example, RMAF CN-235s? Putting an EO turret and an operator console on the 235 will not be that difficult or expensive and the aircraft could retained its transport and utility roles.
Brazilian Air Force C295 SAR aircraft taxying out to Subang runway. Note the EO turret under the nose. Airbus

A more tedious but doable conversion is to recyle and reuse the ISR equipment on the three Beechcraft B200T. Since the Thales AMASCOS systems on the B200Ts are relatively new, I think this is could be done though more work is needed on the 235 airframe to accomodate the radar.
RMAF Beechcraft B200T of the 16th Squadron.

RMAF has already said it was studying plans to convert the 235s for ISR duties though no final decision has been made. However with plans to acquire MPAs nudging forward, this might put a stop to any move to convert the 235s as ISR planes. I am still of the opinion that this should be done of course even for just light ISR work and SAR duties.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2201 Articles
Shah Alam


  1. Marhalim,

    I have seen some reports about Malaysia and the RUAG DO-228 MPA, any truth to it?

    AFAIK nothing on it

  2. Given the interest in UAS and the fact that the MMEA has them; UAS (apart from finances) will determine how the RMAF proceeds with its MPA requirement : pre used, new or converting existing CN-235s. A lot of thought will also go into how we operate future UAS : my preference is for them to be operated jointly with input from the MMEA, this way everyone benefits and gets the needed intel. No one organisation should dominate any asset. Same with MPAs, the RMN has to have a say in MPA taskings even if it is the RMAF that owns and is paying for MPA operations. All this will require bureaucratic and tri service issues to be sorted out first.

  3. Let’s think about a Diamond DA62 MPP. This platform is definitely one of the most economical worldwide. It can be also equipped with a 20″ camera + radar and for example the Thales Amascos Console.

    Yes its being promoted to both RMAF and APMM. I am guessing with RMAF experience with the King Airs they prefer something bigger.

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