The UK Ministry of Defence has, for the first time, acknowledged the purchase of four Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ER surveillance aircraft under an urgent operational requirement deal expected to support operations in Afghanistan.

The MoD will not release further details of the aircraft's intended use or operator - although this is likely to be the Army Air Corps - but confirms that deliveries will take place between June and September 2008.

The first two King Airs were flown to the UK late last year to begin a modification process ahead of flight testing, and the rest are expected to arrive within the next few months. Mission equipment could include a ground-surveillance radar and electro-optical/infrared sensors, similar to 350ERs recently sold for use by the Iraqi air force.

The MoD has previously ordered three General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) unmanned air vehicles for use in Afghanistan, and late last year requested a possible follow-on purchase of 10 air vehicles and related equipment worth up to $1 billion (Flight International, 15-21 January).

Source: Flight International