By David Himbara
Recent developments may soon open the way for increased aggressive capacities for Rwanda’s General Paul Kagame. Kagame’s airforce has so far been equipped with helicopters. This is about to change. Kagame is in the process of purchasing two 208B Grand Caravan aircraft. These planes don’t come cheap when armed with firepower. The 208B Grand Caravan costs approximately US$2.6 million per plane. The AC-208 Combat Caravan costs approximately US$14.7 million per plane.
The capability of the aircraft is 3 tons fully loaded with a maximum range of 1,000 nautical miles (1,900km).
Weaponizing such aircraft is not a challenge — it can fire up to 8km from the target without risk. For low-intensity warfare, the AC-208 Combat Caravan is a much-appreciated close air support asset. Besides, adding some optronics under the nose may give the aircraft extra ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) capabilities.
And STOL (short take-off) would allow these aircraft to use virtually any airstrip up to Kisangani in DR Congo or anywhere else in the neighbourhood and back home.
The plane is versatile enough to do medevac evacuation of military or other casualties on Monday and attack military targets on Tuesday.
These aircraft may be engaged in any armed conflict against neighbours, although UPDF Air Force would take them down easily with their Su-27. But the aircraft gives Rwanda the upper hand against Burundi and DR Congo. Therefore, it is hard to buy the Rwanda story that “we will only do medevac in peacekeeping operations.”
Stay tuned. The delivery date of hardware to Rwanda is 2020.