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Thread: Afghan Airforce 2010 onwards

  1. #41

    Afghanistan receives first Indian-donated Mi-25 helo

    Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

    23 December 2015

    India has gifted four Mi-25 helicopters to Afghanistan, the first of which was recently delivered. Source: Indian Air Force

    Afghanistan has received the first of four Mil Mi-25 'Hind' assault helicopters being gifted by India, it was disclosed on 22 December.

    Once deliveries are complete, the former Indian Air Force platforms will be operated by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in place of five Mi-35 'Hind' helicopters (of which only one is still serviceable) being withdrawn from service in January 2016. The Afghan government has also requested from Russia the sale of a further undisclosed number (described by Russian state media as 'a few') Mi-35 platforms.

    As of October, the AAF has a total of 109 aircraft: six Cessna T-182 trainers; four Lockheed Martin C-130 airlifters; 25 Cessna C-208 Grand Caravans (one of which crashed on 12 October); 56 Mil Mi-17 transport and assault helicopters; five Mi-35s (one serviceable); 10 MDHI MD 530F training and light attack helicopters; and three Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Cheetal (Alouette) light utility helicopters (also gifted by India). The first of 20 Embraer-Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft are due to arrive in-country in January.

    In addition to the AAF's inventory, the Special Mission Wing of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) plans to field 30 Mi-17s and 18 Pilatus PC-12 surveillance aircraft.

    While the AAF is now getting the numbers of aircraft it needs to support combat operations, some officers have expressed disquiet over some of the platforms' suitability for the Afghan environment. In September a highly experienced AAF pilot, Colonel Qalandar Shah Qalandari, was reported in international media as saying that the MD 530F scout helicopter is "a total mess ... It's unsafe to fly. The engine is too weak. The tail rotor is defective. And it's not armoured ... Even the guns are no good".

    The helicopter manufacturer MDHI and weapons supplier FN Herstal both vigorously defended the platform in a statement to IHS Jane's , saying that it exceeded requirements.

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  2. #42

    First four A-29 Super Tucanos arrive in Afghanistan

    Franz J Marty, Kabul - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

    17 January 2016

    One of the newly arrived Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos taxis across the airfield upon arrival at Hamid Karzai International Airport on 15 January. Source: USAF

    Four Embraer/Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft destined for service with the Afghan Air Force (AAF) arrived at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, on 15 January.

    The aircraft are the first batch of a total of 20 A-29s that are set to be delivered incrementally by the United States to the AAF; four more aircraft will be delivered by the 2016 fighting season, another four by the 2017 fighting season; and the remaining eight by the end of 2018.

    US Army Colonel Michael T Lawhorn, director of public affairs for NATO's Operation 'Resolute Support' in Afghanistan, told IHS Jane's on 17 January, "The A-29 light attack aircraft is a versatile aircraft that brings a number of critical capabilities to the AAF. These include close air support, armed escort, and armed overwatch."

    The A-29 features two internally mounted .50 cal machine guns (one in each wing), and has five hardpoints under the wing and a fuselage that can carry up to 1,500 kg of additional weapons. These can include .50 cal or 20 mm gun pods, rocket pods, short-range air-air missiles of the AIM-9X class, and conventional or smart freefall bombs. The aircraft's inboard stations, as well as its ventral one, are also 'wet'-configured for underwing fuel tanks.

    Brigadier General Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD), stated that the four A-29s that have arrived in Kabul are fully combat ready, including provision for the dropping of laser-guided bombs, and will become operational within the next few days. Masoom Stanikzai, acting Afghan defence minister, told Afghan media that the A-29s will probably be deployed to the eastern province of Nangarhar and the southern province of Helmand.

    The A-29s are being provided to the AAF under the US Air Force (USAF) Light Air Support (LAS) programme, for which SNC bid as the prime contractor teamed with Embraer as the original platform provider.

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  3. #43

    Afghan A-29s conduct strikes in northeastern province of Badakhshan

    Franz J Marty, Kabul - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

    18 April 2016

    An A-29 of the Afghanistan Air Force seen at Kabul military airport on 23 February 2016. Source: Franz J Marty

    A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) conducted airstrikes against insurgent targets in the northeastern province of Badakhshan on 15 April, multiple sources confirmed to IHS Jane's . These marked the first confirmed combat sorties of the aircraft in Afghanistan.

    Foreign sources in Kabul stated that the AAF's A-29s conducted combat sorties in Badakhshan and an officer of the Afghan National Army (ANA) deployed to Badakhshan told IHS Jane's that three airstrikes were conducted in the Khostak valley in the district of Jurm, one of the main insurgency strongholds in the region. According to the officer, these were night operations launched from Kabul that targeted and killed three insurgent commanders: two locals as well as one commander who was reportedly a national of Tajikistan. The officer added that the strike against the Tajik commander killed the whole family, in total 12 persons.

    Speaking to IHS Jane's , a diplomatic source familiar with air force matters clarified that the A-29s successfully hit the targets, designated by co-ordinates provided by unspecified intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, with bombs.

    Currently, eight A-29s are fielded with the AAF, with the first four having arrived in January and an additional four on 29 March. These airframes are the first of a total of 20 that the United States is incrementally providing to the AAF. Another four are scheduled to be delivered by the 2017 fighting season, while the remaining eight are scheduled to arrive in 2018.

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  4. #44

    India to restore grounded aircraft in Afghanistan

    After supplying four attack helicopters to Afghanistan, India is quietly moving to qualitatively scale up military assistance in terms of long-term spares and support.

    By Petty Officer 1st Class David M. Votroubek [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    This involves a trilateral framework with Russia, officials confirmed to The Hindu who said it is likely to be discussed by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they meet on the sidelines of the sixth Heart of Asia (HoA) ministerial conference in Amritsar later this week, which will be attended by Russia as well.

    Two Indian Air Force technical teams visited Afghanistan last month to assess the requirements for spares and maintenance to restore the Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft lying there, defence and diplomatic sources told The Hindu.

    “There are at least 40-50 helicopters of various types and some An-32 medium transport aircraft which have been grounded from a long time for need of spares. We have asked Indian help in refurbishing them,” diplomatic sources stated.

    The teams were tasked to assess the requirements and submit a report on what can be provided by India from its existing inventory and what needs to be procured from Russia which is the original manufacture of the hardware, a Defence Ministry source said. “Based on that we will work out a model with Russia where they will supply the necessary equipment and we will pay for it,” the source added.

    Trilateral cooperation

    This effectively formalises the trilateral mechanism which was mooted in 2014 in the backdrop of withdrawal of troops by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) but did not make progress at that time due to reluctance of the then UPA government.

    Kabul had long been requesting India for offensive military hardware and has several times presented a wish list of urgent military hardware. A revised list was handed over to India in August during the visit of the Chief of Afghan National Army General Qadam Shah Shahim and was discussed at the highest level during Mr. Ghani’s visit in September.

    Priority items on the list include utility and attack helicopters, tanks, artillery, ammunition and spares, in addition to help in reviving some of the Soviet-era equipment and factories in Afghanistan.

    No new hardware

    “The current assessment is specifically for spares and support for the helicopters and aircraft with Afghanistan and does not include supply of new hardware from India. We are waiting for a response from India,” sources said and added that the idea is to extend it other areas as well in future.

    India has supplied three Cheetak utility helicopters, and in a major policy shift, agreed to transfer four Mi-25 attack helicopters from its inventory last year. While India seems to be open to supplying lethal hardware, involving Moscow is inevitable as most of the equipment is manufactured in Russia.

    This was evident in the case of an Mi-25 helicopter that was grounded due to lack of spares which had to be procured from Russia.

  5. #45

    Black Hawks To Replace Russian Mainstay In Afghan Inventory

    Pentagon looks to reduce reliance on Russian arms suppliers by eliminating Mi-17 helo fleet

    Dec 2, 2016

    Tony Osborne | Aviation Week & Space Technology

    Hip Replacement

    The U.S. Department of Defense is preparing to swap out the Afghan air force’s Russian-built fleet of Mi-17 “Hip” helicopters in favor of U.S.-produced Black Hawks.

    The Pentagon has requested funding of $813 million in the fiscal 2017 budget for new fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for Afghanistan, including $264 million for the purchase and refurbishment of 53 ex-U.S. Army UH-60A+ Black Hawks—although as many as 159 could be delivered over the coming years.

    The plan should end U.S. reliance on Russian support for the helicopters, which officials say has become more difficult to fund since Congress and President Barack Obama put restrictions on doing business with Russian arms exporters after Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

    Changing of the Guard
    • Refurbished UH-60 Black Hawks will replace Russian Mi-17s in the Afghan inventory
    • As many as 159 UH-60s could be needed as Afghanistan takes more responsibility for its security.
    • Decision comes four years after Italian C-27s were replaced with C-130s over serviceability issues.

    This has delighted politicians who advocated for a change in policy. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who represents Connecticut—home to Sikorsky—described the Pentagon’s policy of buying Russian helicopters as “misguided” and a “travesty that will now be stopped.”

    However, the plan smacks of protectionism, and comes just four years after the Defense Department controversially grounded a fleet of Italian-built airlifters over claims of poor serviceability, an issue that the Italian supplier Alenia Aermacchi—now Leonardo Aircraft—vehemently denied. The U.S. later switched the refurbished G.222/C-27A Spartans for the larger and more complex C-130 Hercules, and the C-27s were later ignominiously left for scrap at the end of the runway in Kabul.

    Changing the Mi-17s for the smaller Black Hawk would force the still fledgling Afghan air force to re-train its personnel as it faces a resurgent Taliban. U.S. officers have long questioned how quickly* crews could be trained to fly the more advanced Western helicopter types.

    And the Pentagon has long extolled the virtues of the Mi-17. In 2010, as the aircraft were being delivered to Kabul, senior officers said they were “perfectly suited” to the needs of Afghanistan, noting that Afghan airmen had been flying the aircraft for more than 30 years and that the type’s introduction allowed “an air force with considerable battlefield mobility to rise from the ashes of Afghanistan’s war-torn past with almost immediate impact.”

    The Afghan air force currently has a fleet of 45-47 Russian-built Mi-17s, but supporting them has become more difficult since sanctions against Russian suppliers were beefed up. Credit: Tony Osborne/AW&ST

    Today, the Pentagon is far less positive. Since the Afghans took over security from NATO forces, overuse and attrition have “steadily diminished” what was an “already undersized Mi-17 fleet,” says Defense Department spokesman Adam Stump.
    Black Hawks are now considered a more sustainable solution to meet the Afghan army’s needs, particularly with the higher-than-anticipated costs of maintaining the Mi-17s and the legal restrictions on spending Pentagon funds to maintain or buy more of them.

    “Following a review of Afghan forces’ aviation requirements, the department determined that UH-60s would be the best available platform to meet the mission requirements of the Afghan air force, and address the need for additional rotary wing capability, and to replenish losses from the existing Mi-17 fleet,” Stump adds.

    Air Force Capt. Jason Smith, a spokesman for the Kabul-based 438th Air Expeditionary Wing that supports the work of the Afghan air force says the Mi-17 is that service’s workhorse, and in the June-October timeframe, the helicopters had performed 5,100 sorties, carrying more than 1,600 metric tons of cargo, and performed more than 330 air strikes.

    Aviation Week Intelligence Network research suggests the Afghan air force has 45-47 Mi-17s and the Afghan Special Mission Wing an additional 30 helicopters. The Pentagon hopes to replace both fleets with UH-60s.

    However, the fleet suffered considerable losses in 2016. The Aviation Safety Network website records that as many as 4-6 Afghan Mi-17s may have been written off during the year. The Black Hawks to be delivered to the Afghan army will be UH-60A+s, with a lighter airframe than the UH-60A but fitted with the General Electric T700-GE-701C engines that equip the heavier UH-60L. The Pentagon says this model is more appropriate for Afghanistan’s climate and terrain.

    Along with the Black Hawks, the funding will deliver 30 armed MD Helicopters MD530 scout helicopters, six Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos and five Cessna AC-208 Armed Caravan reconnaissance platforms. The Defense Department plans to begin fielding the helicopters within two years of funding the program.*

  6. #46

    Meanwhile, Back In Afghanistan

    Dec 8, 2016

    by Nicholas Fiorenza in Ares

    Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, who attended the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Dec. 6-7, identified the Afghan Air Force (AAF) as the number one priority for modernization of the Afghan security forces.

    U.S. Army photo by Maj. Ken Lizotte

    U.S. Marine Corps General John W. Nicholson, commander of NATO's Resolute Support training and the U.S. Freedom Sentinel counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan, warned that the declining state of the AAF's Russian-built aircraft and the lack of spare parts would lead to them becoming unusable. These aircraft include M-35 attack helicopters, four of which have been supplied by India, and Mi-17s used by Afghan special forces.

    Nicholson painted Afghan special forces as a bright spot in the 300,000-strong Afghan security forces, some of whose units are plagued by poor leadership, incompetence, and corruption. Special forces conducted 70% of Afghan National Army (ANA) offensive operations, supported by special mission wing M-17s with goggle-qualified pilots who can fly both at night and during the day. It has been proposed that the M-17s be replaced by UH-60s.

    In 2016, Little Bird helicopters and eight A-29 attack aircraft were integrated into the AAF and nearly 120 Afghan air tactical controllers were embedded in Afghan units to guide them. Since April, the AAF has therefore been able to conduct its own strikes. Nearly 20 Afghan air crews have also been added to the AAF, with more being trained in the United States, and the Obama administration has requested more funding for the AAF.

    In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles have been introduced into some ANA corps.

  7. #47

    U.S. Will Buy No More Russian Helos for Afghans

    by Mark Huber - December 13, 2016, 1:59 PM

    An Afghan air force Mil Mi-17. The US will replace them with former US Army UH-60 Black Hawks. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

    There will be no more U.S.-bought Russian helicopters for the Afghan Army. The controversial program is officially over. The depleted fleet of rapproximately 50 Russian Mi-17s that the U.S. bought for the Afghans will be replaced by a fleet of refurbished Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks under a budget amendment submitted to Congress. Parts for the Mi-17s have been hard to come by in the wake of U.S. and international sanctions against Russia following that country's annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

    Shortly thereafter, President Obama banned most dealings with Russian arms manufacturers including state-owned Rostec, parent company of Russian Helicopters, manufacturer of the Mi-17. The native Afghan fleet was kept flying by obtaining parts from India, but harsh conditions and attrition meant the existing fleet was hard-pressed to meet local needs. And a Pentagon plan to add $1 billion worth of inventory to the U.S.-bought Mi-17 fleet in Afghanistan was dead on arrival in Congress as early as 2013, despite pleas from U.S. field commanders and then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that the Afghans could get up and running in the Mi-17 quickly. “They’ve been using it for years,” Hagel said in April 2013 House testimony. “Easy maintenance, unsophisticated. We can get it pretty quickly. That’s the one they want.”

    But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) publicly complained that year that the Pentagon's own research showed that the Boeing CH-47 tandem-rotor Chinook was a much more cost-effective long-term platform for the mission. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) took aim at the Army for mismanaging the program, run by its Redstone Arsenal's Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft Office at Fort Rucker, Ala. “The Army's mishandling of this arms program, as well as the Afghan military's inability to maintain the helicopters, further underscores why this contract should have been canceled long ago,” he said.

    Blumenthal's criticism of the program was punctuated when the Defense Criminal Investigative Service opened a criminal probe into its conduct in August 2013. That investigation ultimately led to the 2015 conviction of its former director, Army Col. Norbert Vergez, on conflict of interest charges. Among other things, Vergez was accused of taking illegal gratuities from subcontractors involved in the program.

    Blumenthal said recently that the Afghan requirement could grow to as many as 159 UH-60s. They will be upgraded to the UH-60A+ configuration. UH-60A+ helicopters are upgraded with T700-GE-701D/CC engines and relevant components.

  8. #48

    Afghan Forces Receive Light Attack Aircraft In Kandahar Airfield

    (Source: Khaama Press Agency; posted Dec 18, 2016)

    The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) received the first A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft in Kandahar Airfield amid ongoing efforts to boost the airpower of the Afghan forces to suppress a resurgent Taliban.

    The planes were deployed earlier this month and a ceremony was organized to mark the arrival of the aircraft.

    Members of the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, participate in a ceremony for the arrival of A-29 Super Tucanos with Afghan Air Force members from Kandahar Air Wing Dec. 1, 2016,” according to 438th Air Expeditionary Wing.

    The statement further added “The ceremony marked the arrival of the A-29s to KAF. Participants from both the AAF and US Air Force welcomed the arrival of the increased combat capability to the region.”

    The Afghan Air Force received several A-29 and MD-530 Cayuse helicopters from the United States earlier this year which are playing a key role in providing close air support to the Afghan forces.

    “The AAF’s capability to provide airlift, casualty evacuation (CASEVAC),4 and organic aerial fires continue to improve as the Department of Defense (DoD) fields more aircraft to the AAF and as its pilots and crews gain operational experience. With the fielding of 12 additional MD- 530 attack helicopters during the reporting period and several more months of operational employment of the A-29 light attack aircraft, the AAF demonstrated increasing effectiveness in providing aerial fires in support of ANA ground forces,” according to the latest Pentagon report, Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan.

    The report further added that the use of A-29s and MD-530s in particular were critical to the success of ANDSF offensive clearing operations during Operation Shafaq. After a little more than six months of conducting combat operations, the ANDSF is proving increasingly effective at integrating the A-29 into operations. The AAF is also working more closely with the ANA to improve aerial fires integration through the further development of Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators (ATAC).

    The AAF use the A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to attack targets of strategic significance and to provide critical air support, such as aerial fires, to ground forces. The A-29 can carry Mk-81 250-lb bombs, Mk-82 500-lb bombs, rockets, and two .50 cal machine guns mounted in the wings.

    The A-29 is also capable of employing laser-guided bombs, but due to low aircrew experience levels, technical issues with front seat targeting and aircraft performance limitations, employment training has been delayed, the report stated, adding that the A-29 pilots however continue to achieve high accuracy with unguided bombs, and there has been no operational impact due to the delay of the laser-guided bomb training.

    Eight A-29s are in Afghanistan along with their Afghan pilots and associated maintenance personnel. Twelve more Afghan A-29s are at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, to support pilot and maintenance training, and will be delivered to Kabul by late 2018.


  9. #49

    Is the Afghan air force trigger happy? Here's what the numbers say

    By: Shawn Snow and Andrew deGrandpre, February 8, 2017 (Photo Credit: Capt. Edith Sakura/Air Force)

    The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, heads to Capitol Hill on Thursday where he is likely to endure intense questioning from Senate lawmakers eager for his assessment of the challenges complicating the military’s ability to withdraw from the United States’ longest war. High on that list is the competency of Afghanistan's air force, which according to the United Nations’ latest report is largely responsible for a stunning rise in civilian casualties resulting from airstrikes.

    Compared to 2015, the number of civilian casualties caused by Afghan airstrikes doubled last year to 252, according to the U.N. That figure includes civilians killed and wounded. And while American military officials say those numbers are grossly inflated, they have nevertheless begun to fast-track training for a new cadre of Afghan tactical air controllers who can, from the ground, warn pilots when they are at risk of killing innocent people.

    What remains an issue of debate is whether this increase in civilian casualties is to blame on the Afghans being overly aggressive or undisciplined, whether it's the result of rushed training, or whether it is the inevitable result of assuming greater responsibility for their country’s security. U.S. and Afghan officials insist these pilots demonstrate restraint while in the cockpit, saying 66 percent of their requests to attack specific targets are rejected over concerns they could result in unintentional deaths.

    However, the Afghans’ primary attack pilots are firing their weapons during four of every 10 combat missions, a rate three times greater than that of their U.S. Air Force counterparts, a Military Times analysis shows.*And herein lies an enormous predicament, not only for Nicholson, but for President Donald Trump and his administration. The U.S. military's ability to extract from Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the success of Afghanistan's security forces — and most especially its air force, which is seen as a vital link to protecting Afghan ground forces from the pressure they face not only from relentless Taliban militants but from the host of al-Qaida affiliates that operate throughout the country, as well.

    “Whenever U.S. officials talk about the various incapacities of the Afghan military, air cover is always at the top of the list,” said Michael Kugelman, an Afghanistan expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. “... The Taliban's growing momentum on the battlefield and its increasingly deadly impact on civilians can no longer simply be shrugged off. Afghanistan needs to do things to bring it under control, and scaling up the capacities of a troubled air force is a modest albeit important step forward.”

    Today, of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, 133 are considered to be contested and 41 are directly under the Taliban’s control, according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.*About 8,400 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, and it is unclear what Trump will do in the near term. After a December phone call between Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Afghan officials hinted that Trump may be open to sending more U.S. forces back to the region. It's unknown what role any additional forces would play, though.

    Further conditioning the Afghan air force must remain a leading priority. In 2016, Afghan pilots operating their country's two primary attack aircraft — the fixed-wing A-29 Super Tucano and the MD-530 Cayuse Warrior, a small but potent attack helicopter — flew 1,992 sorties and conducted 800 airstrikes, according to data provided by Afghanistan's air force. By comparison, U.S. Air Force combat aircrews flew 5,162 such missions during that period and conducted 615 strikes, according to American officials in Kabul.

    That's a 40 percent attack rate for the Afghans compared with 12 percent for their American counterparts.

    Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 Cal machine guns during a media demonstration, April 9, 2015, at a training range outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)
    Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston

    There are several important caveats, however, U.S. officials say.

    As a Military Times investigation revealed this week, last year the U.S. Army conducted 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan from armed attack helicopters and drones, previously undisclosed figures that have raised significant questions about the U.S. military's broader transparency in reporting its activity not only in Afghanistan, but in Syria and Iraq — and potentially as far back as 2001, when the war on terrorism began.

    U.S. officials in Kabul provided the Army's statistics to Military Times to illustrate that Afghan pilots, when compared with the Americans, are not trigger happy. However, officials could not provide the number of sorties conducted by Army helicopters and drones, thus making it impossible to calculate overall how frequently American pilots are firing weapons and dropping bombs.

    U.S. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, was unable to provide Military Times with that data, either.

    There are distinctions, too, in how each side defines its combat missions, U.S. officials argue. The Afghan's A-29 primarily attacks pre-selected targets, including weapons, vehicles, massed forces, and individual terrorist leaders and Taliban commanders. The Afghans refer to this as a "close air attack." The MD-530 provides air support to ground troops, as do U.S. aircraft, in real-time.

    This is noteworthy as the A-29 currently lacks the sophisticated communications equipment to make it truly effective in a close-air-support role. In fact, the aircraft can radio their operations center only within a 14-mile radius, U.S. officials said.

    The Afghan air force fields three Mi-35s as well, aging helicopter gunships nearing the end of their service lives. They are armed with a Gatling gun and 57mm rockets. However, they seldom fly due to a lack of spare parts. Also, the Mi-35 and its pilots are not trained or advised by Americans. The U.N. says Mi-35s were responsible for seven civilian casualties last year.

    Of the 252 civilian casualties blamed on the Afghan air force, 85 resulted in death. The U.N. attributes most — 224 — to strikes by helicopters. The A-29 caused 24.

    Air Force Capt. Jason Smith, a spokesman for the U.S.-led training mission, told Military Times he’s aware of only two incidents last year in which an Afghan A-29 or MD-530 killed civilians.

    By comparison, the U.N. blamed 235 civilian casualties — 127 deaths — on airstrikes carried out by the U.S. and its international partners. The high toll is "largely attributable" to one controversial operation in Kunduz province in which 60 Afghans were either killed or injured.

    A member of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces participates in air-to-ground integration training in Kabul province, Afghanistan, Dec. 27. The integration of air to ground training with live fire assets enables ANDSF operations and capabilities. (Photo by Air Force Capt. Kay M. Nissen)
    Photo Credit: Air Force Capt. Kay M. Nissen

    Expect Nicholson to vigorously defend the Afghans and the training they’re being provided. U.S. officials say these pilots continue to make gains both in their capability, proficiency and use of restraint. Air Force Brig. Gen. David Hicks, commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, said that introduction of the A-29 in 2016 has provided Afghan ground commanders with support they've not had previously.

    "On more than one occasion, A-29 pilots have come back from missions without dropping their munitions," said Hicks, who heads the coalition's train, advise and assist mission for Afghanistan’s air force. "The reasons for not using weapons are very telling. I hear things like, 'civilian considerations, inability to discern targets and unexpected friendly forces.' ”

    Afghan pilots are held accountable for any civilian casualties they may cause, said Air Force Col. Sean McLay, senior U.S. adviser to the Afghan air force. In about 12 percent of the Afghans’ missions, he added, pilots return without striking their predetermined targets.

    Last summer, NATO and U.S. forces introduced a program to train Afghan air controllers who guide pilots to their targets. The training lasts about four weeks and includes instruction on relevant equipment, map-reading, communications and the specific skills required to talk an aircraft onto a target. The program has graduated 30 students, with ongoing courses in Helmand and Logar provinces. By the start of the next fighting season, in April, officials anticipate there will be more than 40 Afghan tactical air controllers capable of coordinating airstrikes.

    “Their role in increasing accuracy and decreasing collateral damage can't be understated,” said Lt. Col. Andy Janssen, who heads the program. “We were briefed recently that an [air controller on the ground] called off an attack because a couple of goat herders came too close to the target that was to be engaged. Feedback like that verifies the success of this program.”

    Shawn Snow edits Military Times' Early Bird Brief. On Twitter: @snowsox184 . Andrew deGrandpre is Military Times' senior editor and Pentagon bureau chief. On Twitter: @adegrandpre .
    Last edited by buglerbilly; 09-02-17 at 03:23 AM.

  10. #50

    Afghanistan receives further Super Tucanos ahead of 2017 fighting season

    Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly

    20 March 2017

    Four A-29 Super Tucanos arrive at the Kabul Air Wing in Afghanistan on 20 March ahead of the beginning of the 2017 fighting season. The aircraft will bolster the Afghan Air Force's inventory from eight to 12 A-29s in country. Source: US Air Force

    The Afghan Air Force (AAF) has received a further four Embraer-Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprops ahead of the commencement of the 2017 'fighting season'.

    The Super Tucanos arrived at Kabul International Airport on 20 March where they will be used by the Kabul Air Wing following a brief reconfiguration to make them ready for combat operations (the fitting of guns, etc).

    With 12 of the 20 aircraft currently under contract now in Afghanistan and one lost in an accident on 6 March, the remaining seven are located at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia for use as training platforms ahead of their eventual relocation to Kabul. A further four aircraft have been requested also, although it remains to be seen if the aircraft lost will be replaced.

    Powered by a single 1,600 SHP Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68/3 turboprop engine, the Super Tucano carries two 12.7 mm machine guns (200 rounds each) in the wings, and can be configured with additional underwing weaponry such as 20 mm cannon pods, additional 12.7 mm machine guns, rockets pods, precision-guided munitions, and/or 'dumb' bombs of up to 1,500 kg. It has a seven-hour endurance, and can operate from semi-prepared air fields.

    (225 of 310 words)

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