US Scraps Afghan Cargo Plane Fleet
Dec 28, 2012
Stars and Stripes
NOBODY comes out of this saga with any positive reflection...........the epitome of a cluster-fuck of the first order. Spares? We don't need spares! sheeesh!!!!
KABUL — The U.S. military is scrapping the Afghan Air Force's entire fleet of Italian-made cargo planes, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
U.S. and Afghan officials told the paper that the Afghan military isn't expected to have an independent and fully functioning air force until around 2017, well after the withdrawal of most U.S. and international troops.
On the west end of Kabul International Airport, twin-engine C-27As sit side by side, sunlight reflecting off their gray wings and the green, black, and red of the Afghan flag emblazoned on their tails. For more than a year, though, most of the planes had been little more than expensive aviation exhibitions, unable to fly due to lack of spare parts and maintenance.
Now, despite spending nearly $600 million on the program, the U.S. is canceling the contract for the aircraft and disposing of all 16 planes delivered to the Afghan Air Force, the Journal reported.
Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA, failed to meet the requirements of their contract to maintain the fleet, according to an email from U.S. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick, who was quoted in the Journal.
"This decision comes after failed attempts by the contractor to generate a sufficient number of fully mission-capable aircraft that would provide an effective airlift capability for the AAF," Gulick said in the email.
An Alenia representative was quoted in the Journal as saying the company had not received word of the decision and that the program had recently shown improvement.
"It's all a bit surprising that this decision is being made now when the [remediation] plan is being fully implemented," the representative said.
The entire fleet of C-27As was grounded in December 2011 and even recently only four to six planes have been able to operate at any one time, Afghan Air Force spokesman Col. Mohammad Bahadur said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.
"The basic problem is that these airplanes were purchased without spare parts," Bahadur said. "For a small part, you need to wait for weeks or months."
For the Afghan military, still struggling to operate independently, the lack of cargo aircraft has been a blow to an already shaky logistics system. The Afghan security forces have leaned heavily on their fleet of Russian helicopters and Cessna 208 planes. But those aircraft struggle to keep up with demand, especially on longer routes, such as the roughly 300-mile haul between the capital and Kandahar, Afghanistan's second city and still a major center for fighting.
Shortages of fuel and parts are epidemic for Afghan troops, whose Humvees and pickups often lie dormant for days; many units complain of a shortage of ammunition.
The U.S. is set to deliver four C-130s, four-engine cargo planes that are the workhorses of the U.S. Air Force, to the Afghan Air Force in 2013, said Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.
"A military that doesn't have a plane is like a man without legs," Azimi said.
© Copyright 2012 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved.
Any chance we'll pick up 6-8 of these almost brand new C-27J's in a HMAS Choules style deal?
10 C-27J's has always struck me as a particularly unusual fleet size for the RAAF... Personally something along the lines of:
6x C-17A Globemaster III's seems about right to me...
These are Ex Italian Airforce G-222'S, C-27A's if you like...............the low hour C-27J's the USAF have are now fixed in place until at least December 2014.....and there remains a push to buy more......
The G-222's the Yanks had (formerly based for Panama duties until the USForces moved out) have all gone to the US State Department.......repainted and now flying active service all over the place.............
I don't disagree on the numbers tho...............
USAF Starts Contractor Hunt for Afghani C-130s
Feb. 1, 2013 - 10:48AM
By AARON MEHTA
The U.S. Air Force is reaching out to contractors to gather information on support and maintenance for a quartet of C-130H transportation planes earmarked for the Afghani Air Force.
On Jan. 31, the Air Force issued a “request for information” on a federal contracting site regarding Contractor Logistics Support in Afghanistan. The RFI will initially cover four C-130H aircraft but leaves the option for “possible growth” in the future. The base of operations for the contract is tentatively listed as Kabul but the RFI notes that may change, as a site survey for C-130H infrastructure is planned in February.
“Services include aircraft maintenance, on and off equipment maintenance, back shop operations, technical, logistical support (supply, repair, transportation, etc.), manpower, training and mentoring of AAF personnel, and security of contractor personnel,” according to the RFI. “Companies may identify other areas that are considered necessary for successful maintenance and operations of the aircraft.”
One section that is bolded in the RFI includes a note on security.
“On-site security is expected to be provided by the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), which is an entirely Afghan security force that was created to provide over watch and convoy security as the US/NATO presence draws down to a level that can no longer cover security requirements,” according to the RFI. “Responders will need to hire the APPF to assume those duties.
The duration of the contract is “expected to be at least four (4 years), commencing in 3 QTR CY14.”
Responses to the RFI are due March 1 to the contracting office at the Robins Air Force Base Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in Georgia. There will be follow up at an industry day in April.
The Pentagon confirmed this week that it intends to equip the Afghanistan Air Force with four C-130H transport planes.
“The USAF has developed a strategy to aggressively pursue delivering two C-130H aircraft in late CY 2013 and two additional C-130H aircraft before the end of CY 2014,” Ed Gulick, Air Force spokesman, wrote in a statement. He added that in the second quarter of this year, Afghani pilots will travel to “various locations” in the U.S. for training on the planes.
“Air Force leadership recognizes the need to promptly address the [Afghan Air Force] requirement for medium airlift capability, and is committed to provide an effective and sustainable airlift capability for our Afghan partners as soon as possible,” Gulick wrote.
In December, the Air Force decided not to renew a contract with Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia to refurbish C-27A transport planes for Afghanistan, citing poor performance from the Italian company. Although the contract, which expires in March, called for 20 of the transport planes to be delivered, the aircraft spent much of the last year grounded due to maintenance issues.
“C-130s will let Afghanis start to build their own backbone of responsive airlift to move troops and supplies where they need them to enforce stability,” Rebecca Grant, president of Iris Independent Research, wrote in an email. “With C-130s, they can use the huge network of over 70 airfields and strips built up by the Coalition and do airdrop too.”
“There are capabilities you want with a smaller plane — greater flexibility in payload and easier airfield access,” Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group, said. But the C-130s are “very capable” and can carry more cargo.
“It really depends on the mission they have in mind,” he said. “Having a mix of both might not be a bad thing at all.”
However, the C-130s have the bonus of being the transport plane of choice for the U.S. Air Force, which Aboulafia notes might simplify training and logistics between the two services.
The decision to move toward the C-130 is just the latest in a running battle between the two transport planes. In President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget, the Air Force proposed canceling the C-27J program after concluding each plane would cost $308 million over its lifetime. Members of Congress have challenged the service on that estimate, citing previous Air Force studies that put the lifetime cost as low as $111 million per plane.
Afghan air force must adapt post-ISAF, Hammond says
By: Craig Hoyle London
15 hours ago
Ending the combat involvement of nations including the UK and the USA in Afghanistan's fight against the Taliban will require the nation to use the limited resources available to it, despite questions currently facing two of its key equipment areas.
"On air support, including rotary, there is a plan to provide basic air capability to the Afghans through the Afghan air force," UK defence secretary Philip Hammond told a House of Commons Defence Committee hearing on 23 January.
"But it would be nothing like the level of air capability that the ISAF [NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] forces have. That will require them to adapt their method of operations to the level of enablers that are available for them."
Hammond gave evidence to the committee days after discussing Afghanistan's nascent defence capabilities during a 19 January meeting with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in London.
The US Air Force could withdraw funding support for Afghan air force C-27A transports
Flightglobal's World Air Forces directory for 2013 lists Kabul's armed forces as having a combined 98 aircraft in active use at the end of 2012, with this total including a combined 31 Alenia Aermacchi C-27A (G222) and Cessna 208 Caravan fixed-wing transports. Rotorcraft operated by the Afghan National Army Air Corps include 67 Bell UH-1H and Mil Mi-8/17-series transports, plus Mi-35 assault helicopters and MD530 trainers.
Recent reports suggest the US Air Force may terminate a deal to support Afghanistan's refurbished C-27As from later this year, with Washington believed to be promoting the introduction of second-hand Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules to equip the Afghan National Security Forces instead.
The USAF has also slipped a decision to select a planned fleet of 20 light air support aircraft for the Afghan air force by several months from January 2013. This leaves little prospect for either the rival Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 or Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano to be in even limited use before coalition forces halt combat activities before the end of 2014.
Afghanistan's new generation of military pilots have so far participated in a largely non-combat role in the country, flying missions accompanied by other ISAF aircraft. NATO has previously spoken of the nation's air force as being able to offer an operationally independent capability only after 2017.
Afghan Air Force Waits on Light Attack Aircraft
by Richard Sisk on April 23, 2013
Despite years of effort by U.S. trainers, the fledgling Afghan Air Force still lacks the planes and the pilots to bomb and strafe in support of its own ground forces and won’t have that ability anytime soon, the top U.S. air commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday.
“They don’t,” Air Force Maj. Gen. H.D. “Jake” Polumbo said when asked if the AAF had the ability to back up the Afghan army in combat. “They have no close air support capability as we would define it. It will take time,” said Polumbo, director of the air component of the International Security Assistance Force.
In a video briefing to the Pentagon from Kabul, Polumbo said that the AAF should begin getting attack aircraft sometime in 2014 with the hoped for arrival of the first of 20 Embraer A29B Super Tucano light air support prop planes which the U.S. bought for the AAF for $427 million.
But that timetable assumes that the Super Tucanos will survive another challenge for the contract from Beechcraft (formerly Hawker Beechcraft), maker of the competing AT-6B Texan II prop plane. The General Accountability Office is currently reviewing the viability of the Beechcraft challenge, and another round of lawsuits was a possibility.
Kansas lawmakers are backing the challenge from Kansas-based Beechcraft while Florida and Ohio politicians are rallying round the Super Tucano, which would be assembled in Jacksonville, Fla., with avionics made by the Sierra Nevada Corp. at a plant in Centennial, Ohio.
And even assuming that the Super Tucanos arrive on time, there is still the problem of finding Afghans who can be trained to fly them.
Afghans who have been showing up for training in the Afghan Air Force couldn’t read and write, Polumbo said, and an entire class had to be sent home recently because they were illiterate. Flying the Super Tucano “requires English and full literacy capabilities,” Polumbo said.
“Building the AAF from the ground up is no easy task,” said Polumbo, echoing the sentiments of his predecessor as air commander, Maj. Gen. Todd Wolters.
The AAF currently has about 6,000 personnel in the projected overall force of 352,000 soldiers and police in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), but Polumbo said the “early signs are encouraging” for the new Afghan airmen.
The AAF currently is flying aging Russian-made Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters but adding the fixed-wing ability to support ground troops was vital as NATO forces withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, Polumbo said. “We know that (tactical) air is a critical enabler,” said Polumbo, who doubles as commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan. “The Taliban have no match for it.”
The Afghans and the remaining NATO forces will have to rely for close air support on U.S. and allied fixed-wing aircraft. As the troops withdraw, the air support will increasingly come from “over the horizon” from U.S. carriers in the Persian Gulf and Gulf airbases, Polumbo said.
When the troops are withdrawn, the focus of the air war in Afghanistan will shift to drones for tactical air and reconnaissance, Polumbo said.
“I come back to the remotely piloted aircraft,” Polumbo said. “They can collect intelligence, but they also are armed. And they’re armed to be able to provide force protection to our coalition forces and then when our coalition ground force commanders, when they deem it appropriate, they can control that air-delivered munition capability from the RPAs to be put in support of the Afghans.”
Read more: http://defensetech.org/2013/04/23/af...#ixzz2RRi9ttD0
Afghan Airmen Gain New Airpower Capability
(Source: U.S Air Force; issued May 31, 2013)
The Afghan air force is acquiring new capabilities, including the equipment and know-how to undertake air support. Here, an Afghan Mi-35 fires 57mm unguided rockets during training. (DoD photo)
KABUL, Afghanistan --- As the 2013 fighting season continues in Afghanistan, the Afghan National Security Forces can add yet another airpower capability to their ever increasing list: air attack from an Afghan air force Mi-35 HIND attack helicopter.
Members of the 377th Rotary Wing Squadron from the Kabul Air Wing fired 23 mm rounds from newly mounted twin-barreled Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 guns on an Mi-35 for the first time May 15. This achievement represents a significant milestone in the Afghan air force and NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan Combined Strategic FlightPlan.
"This weapons system provides a vital air-to-ground capability to destroy a target on the ground from the air," said Lt. Col. Brandon Deacon, the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander and adviser to the 377 RWS.
After more than two months of coordinating weapons and ammunition availability, shooting range openings, live-fire training permissions, maintenance challenges and balancing of mission priorities a two-ship Mi-35 formation launched to practice this new and essential capability. The crew consisted of both Afghan pilots as well as Czech instructors from NATC-A.
"Having these capabilities on the Mi-35 is very critical to the Afghan air force," said Col. Khair Mohammad Hashmi, a 377 RWS pilot. "It allows us to protect our borders and support our soldiers during ground operations."
This live-fire exercise marked the first time in history that the Afghan air force has had all three weapons systems installed on the Mi-35. The systems include the GSh-23, the Yak-B 12.7 mm machine gun and the S-5 57 mm rocket pod. During the training mission the Afghan air force pilots fired a total of 725 rounds between the two aircraft.
With close-air support as a top priority for Afghan National Security Forces, the continued growth of these capabilities and doctrine development will prove vital. Doctrine development for the command and control of aerial fire missions and the employment of Mi-17s and Mi-35 in air-to-ground support missions such as aerial escort, air interdiction and close combat attack will help to mitigate any potential gaps as coalition forces begin to draw down.
Once Afghan air force pilots complete final certifications on all three weapons systems, they will be able to employ the fixed-forward GSh-23s to destroy high-value targets from the air in support of ground combat operations.
"What the Afghan air force is eventually working toward is the ability to be able to have call-to-fire capability," Deacon said. "This means there will be someone on the ground talking to the aircraft identifying the area to be targeted. Then the Mi-35s can simply go destroy that target from the air."
In addition to this newly developed capability, the Afghan air force is already conducting numerous air missions without assistance from NATO advisors, including ground corps support, resupply, casualty evacuation, human remains, VIP battlefield movement and, with the use of Mi-35s specifically, show of force missions.
SIGAR Warns Pentagon Against Afghan Weapons Purchase
Jun. 25, 2013 - 03:20PM
By AARON MEHTA
WASHINGTON — On June 17, the Pentagon announced the purchase of 30 Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters to support the Afghan Special Mission Wing (SMW), an Afghan military unit commissioned to perform anti-narcotics and counterterrorism operations.
But an unreleased report from the government’s watchdog in Afghanistan warns that the Pentagon should halt plans to buy the helicopters, along with 12 fixed-wing planes, until major changes are made in how the unit is supported and operated.
“Despite the planned $908 million DOD investment in 48 new aircraft for the SMW, the Afghans lack the capacity — in both personnel numbers and expertise — to operate and maintain the existing and planned fleets,” found the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report. “Without an effective support structure, US funded SMW aircraft could be left sitting on runways in Afghanistan, rather than supporting critical missions, resulting in waste of US funds .”
The draft report in question, “Afghan Special Mission Wing: DOD Plans to Spend $908 Million to Build Air Wing that the Afghans Cannot Operate and Maintain,” was obtained by Defense News June 21. Because the report is a draft, it is possible the content may change in its final version. The report also lacked Pentagon response, which would be included in the final version.
A spokesman for SIGAR declined to comment, citing office policy not to talk about reports until they are finalized.
The SMW was commissioned in July 2012, with an eye on creating an effective anti-narcotics and counterterrorism unit that can operate independently of allied forces at a time the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan. The country is estimated to produce up to 90 percent of the world’s opium, the sales of which help bankroll terrorist organizations such as the Taliban.
To support the unit, DoD plans to spend at least $908 million to purchase 30 rotary-wing and 18 fixed-wing aircraft. The Pentagon estimates there will be another $109 million per year required for oversight, maintenance, training and logistics support, which SIGAR notes will occur the “next several years.”
At full operational capacity, the SMW will be supported by 806 Afghan personnel, including pilots, flight engineers, mechanics and security staff. The SMW will be organized into four squadrons, with two based in Kabul, one in Kandahar and one in Balkh province. Each squadron is designed to include seven Mi-17 helicopters and four PC-12s, a transport plane manufactured by Swiss firm Pilatus Aircraft.
The Pentagon’s announcement for the Mi-17s listed a price of $572,180,894. That total does not include the simulator for training. SIGAR cites a DoD briefing dated March 9, 2012, to the Afghanistan Resources Oversight Council as identifying the cost for the fully capable aircraft and simulator at $771 million. The contract for the PC-12s was announced on Oct. 16 with a price of $218 million.
The purchase of Mi-17s has already proved controversial, due to the relationship between Mi-17 manufacturer Rosoboronexport and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian firm has supplied Assad’s military with weaponry used in its ongoing struggle against rebel forces in Syria.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who last year held up the nomination of Heidi Shyu to become the Army’s top acquisitions officer over the Pentagon’s decision to purchase goods from Rosoboronexport, took the Senate floor June 19 to decry the sale.
The Obama administration “want us to believe that we are promoting US security by doing business with a Russian arms dealer that is helping an anti-American, terror-sponsoring dictatorship commit mass atrocities,” Cornyn said. “American taxpayers should not be indirectly subsidizing the murder of Syrian civilians, especially when there are perfectly good alternatives to dealing with Rosoboronexport.”
The SMW plan calls for the unit to be fully operational by July of 2015. But as of Jan. 23, 2013, SIGAR found that the unit had just 180 personnel, less than a quarter of the manpower needed. Additionally, neither of the Kabul-based squadrons, which were supposed to be in place by the middle of this year, had been fully established as of May 15.
Finding recruits for the unit has proved difficult, due to the 18-20 month vetting process required by the US and because of a requirement that personnel be literate in their native language, a challenge in a country where the United Nations estimates only 26 percent of adults have basic literacy.
Recruitment efforts have also been stalled by tensions between the Afghan Ministry of the Interior (MoI) and Ministry of Defense (MoD), which currently have joint control over the SMW. SIGAR notes that giving full control of the unit to MoD would allow the SMW to draw from the general Afghan Air Force pool, something they currently cannot do because MoD is unwilling to give up recruits without assurance it can maintain control over them.
A draft agreement to hand over control of the unit is “unsigned by the ministries due largely to MOI resistance to surrendering authority over the SMW,” SIGAR wrote.
Recruits who have been selected for the SMW are under-supported and many lack key training to allow them to operate at night.
“The SMW lacks the capacity to conduct counterterrorism missions — part of its stated role,” SIGAR wrote. “The SMW has conducted very few ‘pure’ counterterrorism missions, in part because counterterrorism missions are primarily flown at night, requiring pilots certified to fly using night vision goggles.
“As of January 16, 2013, only 7 of the 47 pilots assigned to the SMW were fully mission qualified to fly with night vision goggles. From SMW conception in May 2012 to our in-theater field work in October 2012, the SMW conducted 25 operations, only one of which was a pure counterterrorism mission.”
Problems also persist with supporting the SMW, which SIGAR warns “may not be able to perform maintenance and logistics support function on its own without continued assistance from DOD.”
Training on the unit has also fallen behind due to poor conditions and a reduction in available flight hours for contractor Northrop Grumman, which provides maintenance and logistics support in Afghanistan.
“Northrop Grumman lost training flights due to SMW crew members not showing up for scheduled training,” SIGAR wrote. Additionally, “the SMW’s flight simulator in Kabul has been inoperable since September 2012 due to lack of needed repairs and an expired warranty.”
Taken together, these challenges caused SIGAR to call for the Pentagon to freeze its purchase of the new platforms “until and unless the memorandum of understanding between MOI and MOD is completed and signed.”
“We question the wisdom of moving ahead with the provision of 30 new Mi-17s and 18 PC-12s, unless these issues are properly addressed,” SIGAR wrote in its conclusion. “We believe the purchase and delivery of the aircraft should be contingent on the SMW’s achievement of personnel and maintenance and logistics support milestones, indications that the SMW has the capacity to execute its mission and operate and maintain its fleet.”
For its part, the Pentagon is concerned that freezing delivery of the aircraft could harm the long-term development of the SMW.
“The department did not concur with the SIGAR report recommendation that the DoD should suspend plans to purchase the 48 new aircraft for the Special Mission Wing (SMW) until and unless the memorandum of agreement between the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior is completed and signed as it would not be in our national interest,” Lt. Col. James Gregory, Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an emailed statement.
“Delaying contract award pending agreement between the ministries on transition of SMW administrative control would unacceptably delay our efforts to develop the SMW into a capable force,” he added. “ISAF is currently engaged with GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] on an Afghan Air Force charter to accomplish the purposes of the MOU.”
Auditors looked at two major task orders, issued by US Army Space & Missile Defense Command, that were designed to provide maintenance and logistical support for the SMW.
Task order 20, issued on Sept. 26, 2008, went to Northrop Grumman to provide maintenance and logistics for MOI and MOD air assets. Task order 32, issued on Sept. 30, 2009, went to Lockheed Martin for “procurement of material and spare parts in support of MOI and MOD air maintenance and repair options.”
SIGAR auditors found that DoD “oversight of ongoing maintenance, logistics, and supply services” for the two task orders was lax. Poor oversight and a lack of measurable outcomes “presented opportunities for the contractor to underperform” and potentially lead to waste of taxpayer funds.
Neither of the task orders includes language specifying how or when the contractors will begin moving management responsibilities over to the SMW, and senior Northrop officials interviewed by SIGAR auditors complained that the SMW has not provided enough highly educated Afghans to be able to take over these roles.
“As a result, they have elected to directly hire some local Afghans with stronger skills than the skills demonstrated by the Afghans provided by the SMW,” auditors wrote. “The officials stated that training direct local hires is better than training the Afghans serving in the SMW because the direct hires are accountable to the contractor. Northrop Grumman is taking this approach on its own; the task order 20 performance work statement has no such requirement.”
Additionally, these two task orders are set to expire by Sept. 30. Auditors note that in November, US military personnel drafted a new work statement to replace these two task orders, and that a Pentagon official said they expect to award a new contract over the summer. But SIGAR still warns that, because the DoD has “not yet issued or taken meaningful action to issue a new contract for the expiring support of task orders 20 and 32, there is concern that ongoing operations and/or support may be interrupted.
“Without well-written task orders to provide maintenance, logistics, and supply order services, and without effective oversight of those task orders, DoD’s ongoing financial investment in the SMW is also at risk,” auditors concluded.
To help solve these challenges, SIGAR called for development of a plan to transfer maintenance and logistics management to Afghan forces, as well as the development of performance metrics to measure contractor performance.
“The SMW was formally established less than a year ago and sustainment efforts, including training, are presently underway,” Gregory, the Pentagon spokesman, wrote in the statement. “Delivery of the aircraft in question will take place over the next eighteen months. This will include training on how to operate and maintain the aircraft and associated equipment.”
Afghan AF Disarray Threatens Senate Funding OK
By Amy Butler, Jen DiMascio
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
August 05, 2013
Why is it that most people think this has more to do with nascent support for Beechcraft than anything else!
The U.S. Air Force is planning to remain in Afghanistan until 2017 in an advisory role, but Congress's confidence in—and potential funding for—the young air force there is wavering.
The drastic funding cuts proposed by Senate appropriators—eliminating a second batch of 20 Super Tucanos and slicing money for more Mil Mi-17 helicopters—are a reaction to a lack of progress in maturing Afghanistan's air force. A June 28 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction looking at one special mission wing designed for the counter-narcotics mission outlined disarray significant enough to prompt the proposed cuts.
A defense industry official says the problems in this wing are mirrored throughout the air force. Pilot retention, for example, is a challenge. “If you're an English speaker who can fly, you're a pretty hot commodity,” the official says. Other congressional committees did not suggest such an explicit reduction in funding, but those bills were drafted before the release of the June report.
The senior U.S. airman in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, says the young service there is making strides. “The press was fairly negative [that] it wasn't ready. It wasn't that advanced. It wasn't that professional,” when he arrived to be deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Wilsbach tells Aviation Week. “That impression . . . was wrong . . . . They are small but capable.”
Afghanistan's entire air force was grounded last year due to poor safety and training, but they have since refocused on training and conducting more operations.
However, the Pentagon hopes to have a much stronger service in place when it decamps in 2017. The Afghan air force is struggling to operate old and unreliable Mi-35s in an attack helicopter role. It was prohibited temporarily from providing fires from these helicopters because of safety concerns; but Wilsbach says they began executing attack missions again at the end of July.
The Pentagon's decision to abruptly cancel Alenia's contract to deliver refurbished C-27A airlifters to Afghanistan along with training, is further straining the small Afghan Mi-17 helicopter fleet.
The first of 20 Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft, A-29 Super Tucanos being built by Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer, is slated to arrive in the late fall of 2014; all 20 should be in place within 10 more months. But a request for the second 20 aircraft, costing $416.8 million, has hit this obstacle in the U.S. Senate. The request was included a list of items specifically needed to continue fighting in Afghanistan.
The A-29s are designed for close air support, light attack and basic intelligence-collection missions that will be especially crucial around the porous Pakistan border as coalition forces pull out of the region in the coming years, Wilsbach notes. With the first 20 aircraft alone, “We don't think it is out of the question to generate 300 A-29 sorties in a month,” he says, which would satisfy all of their anticipated close air support needs.
The Pentagon's own inspector general report questions the wisdom of buying 30 more Mi-17s and 18 Pilatus PC-12s for the counter-narcotics mission.
“We believe the purchase and delivery of the aircraft should be contingent on the [wing's] achievement of personnel and maintenance and logistics support milestones and indications that the [wing] has the capacity to execute its mission and operate and maintain its fleet,” the June report states. “Without an effective support structure, U.S.-funded [wing] aircraft could be left sitting on runways in Afghanistan, rather than supporting critical missions, resulting in waste of U.S. funds.”
Truncating the A-29 buy would be a boon for Beechcraft, which has vociferously but unsuccessfully protested the Super Tucano source selection by the U.S. Air Force. Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture wants to limit further Pentagon purchases of the A-29, hoping to sell the AT-6 to allies, arguably a tough position to take after the A-29 win.
“We are looking to limit that to the 20 because we believe a policy error was made,” Boisture told an Aviation Week editorial roundtable last month. “We know they didn't select the best aircraft, but we are over that.”
Boisture argues that providing Afghanistan with Russian helicopters and Brazilian A-29s not in the U.S. inventory “defies the logic and intent” of initiatives to supply partners with suitable equipment, and risks creating “orphan” fleets that cannot be employed or sustained by these partners, says Nicole Alexander, Boisture's spokeswoman. Further, he asserts that “long-term employment and sustainment costs cannot be accurately assessed in advance of fielding, since no U.S. infrastructure exists to support the orphan fleets.”
Beechcraft officials did not comment on the proposal to slice Super Tucano funding.
Meanwhile, four Lockheed Martin C-130Hs are to be delivered to the Afghan air force by next April. They will make up for the canceled C-27As.
Afghans to receive first C-130 aircraft from US Air Force
U.S. Air Force airmen load pallets on a U.S. Air Force C-130H Hercules Nov. 3, 2012, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
Jonathan Snyder/U.S. Air Force
By Josh Smith
Stars and Stripes
Published: September 18, 2013
KABUL, Afghanistan — After nearly a year of relying on helicopters for the bulk of its air cargo transportation, the Afghan Air Force will receive its first C-130H Hercules transports early next month.
The U.S. Air Force is slated to give the Afghans four C-130H aircraft. Two of those aircraft will be delivered on Oct. 10, the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan announced on Wednesday.
The U.S. military scrapped the Afghan air force’s entire fleet of 16 Italian-made C-27A cargo planes last year after maintenance problems grounded the aircraft.
The U.S. spent nearly $600 million on the C-27A program, but the contractor was unable to maintain the planes. Many of the Italian-made twin-turboprop C-27As now sit unused at the airfield in Kabul. The C-27As replaced a fleet of Antonov An-32 tactical transports the Afghans had successfully used.
The U.S. has promised to deliver at least four of the larger, four-engine C-130 aircraft.
In the meantime, the nascent Afghan Air Force has been using Russian-made Mil Mi-17 helicopters to haul most of the supplies, soldiers and wounded to and from the bases scattered around the country. Smaller, fixed-wing Cessna C-208 turboprop aircraft also chip in by flying to more established airfields.
Due to Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain and poor road networks, a strong fleet of tactical transports — both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft — is seen as crucial in keeping isolated military outposts supplied without the danger of Taliban ambushes.
Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said C-130s have played a vital role in supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the Afghans are looking forward to fielding aircraft of their own.
“It is very important for the Afghan national security forces to have C-130s because right now the American forces are using the C-130s so effectively,” he said.
But critics have pointed out that the C-130s are more complex, and therefore more expensive to maintain and operate than the C-27As — which proved more than a match for the Afghans. For example, a C-130 costs four times more to operate than an AN-32, according to Afghan military officials.
As international air forces have reduced their support for Afghan army and police units, the Afghan Air Force has been forced to scramble to keep up. The air force is on track to fly more than double the number of casualty evacuation missions this year compared to 2012, with 933 flown as of mid-September.
International advisers remain heavily involved in the Afghan Air Force. All-Afghan aircrews are flying more and more operational missions, but the whole force is not expected to be fully independent for several years after NATO combat troops depart at the end of 2014.
Three brand-new Mi-17 helicopters were delivered to Kabul earlier in September, and 20 propeller-driven A-29 Super Tucanos are supposed to be delivered by the U.S. Air Force later in 2014, and become fully operational by 2018. The Tucanos will be used as ground attack aircraft to replace the small and aging fleet of Mi-35 helicopter gunships currently used by the Afghans.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.