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Modified King Airs to boost Kuwaiti defences

Kuwait has secured approval to advance a possible intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) fleet acquisition comprising four modified Beechcraft King Air 350ERs.

Worth a potential $259 million, the purchase would introduce a new capability for Kuwait, which Flight Fleets Analyzer shows as currently lacking special-mission aircraft.

If completed, the deal will lead to prime contractor Sierra Nevada modifying the twin-turboprops with mission equipment including a Leonardo Seaspray 7500E surveillance radar and L3 Wescam MX-15HDi electro-optical/infrared sensor. The aircraft would also receive a secure communications fit, missile warning receivers and countermeasures dispensers for self-protection.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) says: "Additionally, one of the four aircraft will be further modified to accommodate VIP/senior leadership personnel for transport, and medical evacuation capability or command and control." The DSCA released details of the potential deal in late February, following the receipt of initial approval from the US State Department.

Pointing to the Gulf nation's ongoing military modernisation activity, the DSCA notes: "The proposed sale will enable Kuwait to gather its own airborne ISR data… improve situational awareness and the armed forces' capability to respond to threats."

Sierra Nevada offers a multi-mission adaptation of the King Air, named Scorpion, which it describes as also being suitable for use in border security and law enforcement operations. Its adaptation features two on-board mission management workstations.

Fleets Analyzer records Kuwait as having a current air force inventory of 86 aircraft, including 34 Boeing F/A-18C/Ds and 16 Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopters. It also has 28 Eurofighter Typhoons on order.