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Afghan air force builds strength

Jun 04 2014

Afghan pilots are adding a great deal of capability to the Afghan war effort. The first two C-130 pilots are scheduled to fly solo by the end of May, and already choppers are running missions with all-Afghan crews. Afghan soldiers and civilians often remark that the country needs more military aircraft. Slowly but surely, this need is being met. 

Helicopters are considered essential in the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. And large transport planes will greatly enable nationwide logistical support. As the Afghan military is now leading the fight, with foreign forces drawing down into training and assistance roles, an empowered Afghan Air Force is necessary. 

Building up the air force has taken time. “It’s growing up in small steps right now. We have choppers, we have Cessna 2-8s, and right now, the biggest airplane we have right now is a C-130,” said Captain Khial Shinwari, Afghan Air Force. 

The Afghan helicopters, MI-35 gunships and MI-17 transports, are used heavily in operations around the country. 

At a recent exercise in Kabul, Afghan air capabilities were demonstrated. In some cases, attack helicopters provided overwatch while insurgents were engaged on the ground. In other cases, the transports dropped fast-roping troops close to enemy compounds. 

Servicing aircraft in Afghanistan is challenging. For example, helicopter maintenance teams must respond to both hot and cold climate areas, which exist in Afghanistan simultaneously. 

At the moment 13 countries are contributing to the NATO Air Training Command initiative in Afghanistan, with 2017 as the target date for a self-sufficient Afghan Air Force.