Tag Archives: Afghan Air Force

Feature: Combat ready – training Afghan A-29 pilots

The Afghan Air Force had its first class of eight pilots graduate on 17 December 2015 on its new primary combat aircraft: the Embraer A-29B Super Tucano. They were trained on Moody Air Force Base in the United States by staff of the 81st Fighter Squadron.

In March this year the then student pilots made their first real-life sorties on board the A-29 in the skies of the state of Georgia, a month after classroom training started and two months after the 81st FS was reactivated just for the Afghan Air Force Super Tucano – of which 20 were bought by Washington to equip the Asian country with some sort of fixed-wing air combat element.

Engines started for another combat training mission (Image © Airman 1st Class Kathleen D. Bryant / US Air Force)
Engines started for another combat training mission (Image © Airman 1st Class Kathleen D. Bryant / US Air Force)
Taxiing at Moody Air Force Base (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)
Taxiing at Moody Air Force Base (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)
Ready to go! (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)
Ready to go! (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)

Al-Quada hide-outs in Afghanistan

The White House and Capitol Hill apparently felt an obligation to rebuild the nation’s military after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in reaction to terror airplane attacks in Washington and New York City that destroyed NYC’s World Trade Center and parts of the Pentagon in DC. When the Osama bin Laden led al-Qaeda organisation claimed responsibility the American military went after their hide-outs in Afghanistan and took on the destabilizing Taliban forces in that country as well.

Granted the US for Afghan deal in February 2013 through the US based Sierra Nevada Corporation, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer set up store at Jacksonville in Florida to let US personnel assemble the so-called Light Air Support Aircraft (LAS) in a 40,000 square foot hangar.


RELATED: Overview Afghan Air Force
An Afghan National Army Mil Mi-17V5 (Image © Russian Helicopters)
Check out the Airheadsfly.com overview
of the Afghan Air Force


A-29 backbone

The A-29 Super Tucano will form the backbone of the Afghan Air Force combat element, giving the Afghans something quicker and more versatile to field than the Mil Mi-35 helicopters it is replacing. Training in January started on three machines only, with only a few USAF Airmen. Now that the first eight students have graduated, the 81st FS will continue to train 20 more pilots over the next three years.

Missing students

The training program made headlines in December when two Afghan military personnel failed to show up for work while in the US. The two have been missing since 8 December and when found, will be deported back to Afghanistan, US authorities say.

Spending time on the A-29 simulator is part of the training. A student-pilot is seen here "flying" over Kabul, Afghanistan - his future area of operations (Image © Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley / US Air Force)
Spending time on the A-29 simulator is part of the training. A student-pilot is seen here “flying” over Kabul, Afghanistan – his future area of operations (Image © Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley / US Air Force)

Replacing Mi-35

Shipped to Afghanistan the first A-29s will take up the fight when the Mi-35s are retired in January 2016. This seems all rather quick-quick and it is. In fact, US Air Force Major-General James Hecker, the commander of the 81st Fighter Squadron’s 19th Air Force, acknowledges the Afghan pilots and their American instructors “had to push it” since pilot training on a new aircraft type normally takes two to three years. The Afghan Air Force A-29 pilots had to be ready in 11 months.

Low-cost close-air support

The A-29 is currently considered to be the world’s best low-cost CAS/COIN aircraft, with an operational cost of about 1,000 to 3,000 US dollar per flying hour – use of weapons not included. For a normal attack or fighter aircraft the prize per hour is at least US$ 18,000.

A pair of Super Tucanos in the air over Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
A pair of Super Tucanos in the air over Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
The sun illuminates the rear cockpit of an A-29 Super Tucano in flight on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
The sun illuminates the rear cockpit of an A-29 Super Tucano in flight on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
An A-29B Super Tucano sits on the flightline during a preflight inspection 8 January 2015, shortly after delivery to Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
An A-29B Super Tucano sits on the flightline during a preflight inspection 8 January 2015, shortly after delivery to Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)

Largest A-29 customer

Embraer so far delivered around 190 EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucanos of at least 230 aircraft ordered. Largest customer is the Brazilian Air Force, having received 33 A-29A single-seaters and 66 A-29B two-seaters between 2003 and 2012, with so far four aircraft lost in accidents. Worldwide the fleet has logged more than 180,000 flight hours and 28,000 combat hours.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)

Afghan Air Force C-130 unit complete

The Afghan Air Force Hercules unit is complete, after the fourth and final Lockheed C-130H the Asian nation receives from the USA landed at Hamid Karzai IAP of Kabul on 20 June 2015. All aircraft fly with AAF 1 Wing.

Airmen of Little Rock AFB in Arkansas keep supporting the Afghan Air Force crews in managing to operate the aircraft, which were introduced in 2010 after the US top generals stopped Afghan C-27A operations in a controversial move, with delivery of those Spartans more or less already halfway.

An Afghan Air Force Mi-17 takes off from Kabul Airport (Image Master Sgt. Keith Brown © USAF)
AIRHEADSFLY.COM OVERVIEW:
Afghan Air Force (updated)
Five years later the Afghan tactical airlift fleet depends mostly on the now four C-130s. The first two arrived in 2013, a third mid-2014 and this month the last touched down. If the maintenance crews can keep the machines airborne, they will be a hard sought after commodity for the Afghan military forces which are still battling Taleban troops supported by other nations like the US and many NATO contries.

“Afghanistan needs to perform more missions and having a fourth C-130 allows for that,” Afghan Air Force Captain and C-130 pilot Muhammad Azimy says to US military reporters. “We need to support more troops, moving them as soon as possible from one point to another, getting them into the fight faster. Getting commandos from the north to the south by helicopter would take days, but by C-130 it will take only a few hours.”

C-27A
After pressure from USAF senior officials the US Department of Defense scrapped the already procured 16 Alenia G222s, aka C-27As, from the Afghan Air Force service in 2012. At the time of the cancellation 12 of the 16 were mission-ready at Kabul with Afghan personnel partly responsible for the aircraft. According to critics the personnel competence problems with operating the Hercules will be the same as with the C-27s. With a lower number of aircraft – 4 against 16 – the transport fleet of the Afghan Air Force will be very much relying on US forces for some time to come.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An Afghan Air Force pilot flies a AAF C-130 Hercules during an “advisory mission” with US Air Force airmen from 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan 10 March 2014, over Kabul (Image © Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson / US Air Force)

MD Helicopters debuts at LIMA15 with famous “Little Bird”

MD Helicopters, known from the “Little Bird” helicopter based on the legendary Hughes 500 design – will debut on this year’s LIMA’15 Maritime and Aerospace event in Langkawi, Malaysia. The contribution was confirmed by Mr. Ahmad Dzuhri, Managing Director of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition.

It will give the American manufacturer another opportunity to promote its newest MD 540A. The light attack helicopter has a single engine and is especially handy as a relatively low-cost solution for armed aerial escort, special operations and close air support. Among its standard weaponry are Hellfire missiles, guided rockets, 7.62 mm and .50 caliber machine guns.

OH-6 Cayuse
The MD Helicopters family includes the twin-engine MD Explorer and other single engine versions of the MD 600N, MD 520N, MD 500E, MD530F and MD 530G. Especially the MD500 series is popular amongst law enforcement agencies in the US. Moreover, the Afghan Air Force ordered 12 new choppers based on the US Army’s OH-6 Cayuse last year plus the weaponization of all 17 MD530Fs in Afghan Air Force service.

Asia
In Asia military Defender versions of the type are in use by the Japan Ground Self Defense Force and the Republic of China Navy (Taiwan).

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by MD Helicopters
Featured image (top): The MD530G in flight (Image © MD Helicopters)

Overview: Afghan Air Force

Afghan Air Force (AAF), status as of 15 January 2016
(© 2014 – 2015 Airheadsfly.com. Featured image: An Afghan Air Force Mi-17 takes off from Kabul Airport (Image Master Sgt. Keith Brown © USAF))

>>> Check out our continuing news stream on the Afghan Air Force

Active number of aircraft Afghan Air Force: 133 – 151

  • 4x Embraer A-29B Super Tucano light attack and close-air support aircraft. Bought through a US deal with Embraer. Planned full introduction into service of all 20 A-29s is somewhere in 2018. See our feature here.
  • 5x Mil Mi-35 (“Hind”) attack helicopters, 2 unserviced in reserve. To be retired in January 2016.
  • 4x Mil Mi-25 (“Hind”) attack helicopter. Gift from India.
  • 4x Lockheed C-130H Hercules tactical transport aircraft. Fourth aircraft delivered 20 June 2015.
  • 1x Boeing 727-220 VIP / passenger transport aircraft (ex-Ariana Afghan Airlines. commissioned October 2014)
  • 18x Cessna 208B Grand Caravan utility, surveillance, medevac aircraft. Status of another 8 Cessna 208Bs damaged in hail storm unknown.
  • 86x Mil Mi-17 (“Hip”) tactical transport, medevac and special forces helicopters. Status of another 11 Mi-8 and/or Mi-17s is uncertain. A 87th Mi-17 crashed on 3 January 2016
  • 11x MD Helicopters MD 530F (“Little Bird”) training and armed scout helicopters.
  • 2x HAL Cheetah (Alouette II) utility and scout helicopters. Gift from India.

Aircraft ordered / promised: 42

  • 16x Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack and close-air support aircraft. Bought through a US deal with Embraer. The aircraft and its pilots will work for full operational capability in the United States. The first aircraft rolled out of the factory in September 2014. Planned full introduction into service of all 20 A-29s is somewhere in 2018.
  • 1x Boeing 727-220 VIP / passenger transport aircraft (ex-Ariana Afghan Airlines)
  • 1x Boeing 727-220F cargo transport aircraft (ex-Ariana Afghan Airlines)
  • 6x MD Helicopters MD 530F (“Little Bird”) training and armed scout helicopters. Final planned to enter service in 2016. Total plans for 48 MD 530Fs eventually.
  • 10x – 18x Pilatus PC-12/PC-12NG Special Forces transport and support aircraft.
  • 1x HAL Cheetah utility and scout helicopter. Gift from India.

Airbases: 3 plus 4 NATO / US (reserve) fields

(Source: US Air Force / NATO / NATO)

    • Kabul International Airport (AAF 1 Wing)
      • 4 C-130H
      • 1 B727
      • 4 A-29B
      • 5 Mil Mi-35. To be retired in January 2016.
      • 4 Mil Mi-25
      • Part of the Cessna 208B fleet
      • Part of the Mi-17 fleet
      • Support airfield for NATO Operation Resolute Support, including 3 RAF Puma HC 2 choppers that replaced 3 Chinooks in 2015.
    • Bagram Airfield (US Air Force)
      • Support airfield for NATO Operation Resolute Support (successor ISAF / Enduring Freedom) and US missions in the area
    • Jalalabad Airport (Military / Civilian)
      • Support airfield for NATO of Operation Resolute Support / NATO’s Train Advise Assist Commands (TAAC) East supports the Afghan National Army 201st Corps from FOB Gamberi and FOB Fenty located near Jalalabad
    • Kandahar Airfield (KAF; AAF 2 Wing)
      • Part of the Cessna 208B fleet
      • Part of the Mi-17 fleet
      • NATO support aircraft for Operation Resolute Support / TAAC South supports the Afghan National Army 205th Corps
    • Shindand Airfield (AAF 3 Wing)
      • 11 MD 530F
      • likely HAL Cheetah
    • Herat Airfield (NATO TAAC West)
      • Support airfield for NATO Operation Resolute Support / TAAC West the Afghan National Army 207th Corps. The NATO contribution included at least two Italian Army AW129s and a Italian NH90
    • Mazar-i-Sharif Airfield (NATO TAAC North)
      • Support airfield for NATO Operation Resolute Support / TAAC North the Afghan National Army 209th Corps

    >>> Check out our continuing news stream on the Afghan Air Force

    Shooting Range (aka very nice shots)

    The first C-130H for the Afghan Air Force arriving at Kabul IAP (Image © Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade /ISAF)
    The first C-130H for the Afghan Air Force arriving at Kabul IAP (Image © Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade /ISAF)
    The first F-16 Fighting Falcon - tail marked TX - arrives at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, at 15 December 2013 after thorough runway maintenance (Image Senior Airman Kayla Newman © USAF)
    The first F-16 Fighting Falcon – tail marked TX – arrives at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, at 15 December 2013 after thorough runway maintenance (Image Senior Airman Kayla Newman © USAF)
    Four Afghan Air Force pilots training on the MD 530F helicopter at the Rotary Wing Flight Training Program in Shindand, Afghanistan, prepare for an extended cross country flight. In Autumn 2012 these pilots were the first to graduate from a pilot training program held in their country in more than 30 years (Image © US Army)
    Four Afghan Air Force pilots training on the MD 530F helicopter at the Rotary Wing Flight Training Program in Shindand, Afghanistan, prepare for an extended cross country flight. In Autumn 2012 these pilots were the first to graduate from a pilot training program held in their country in more than 30 years (Image © US Army)
    An Afghan National Army Mil Mi-17V5 (Image © Russian Helicopters)
    An Afghan National Army Mil Mi-17V5 (Image © Russian Helicopters)
    An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
    An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)

    Afghan Air Force C-130s arrive in Kabul

    The first C-130H for the Afghan Air Force arriving at Kabul IAP (Image © Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade /ISAF)
    The first C-130H for the Afghan Air Force arriving at Kabul IAP (Image © Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade /ISAF)

    The Afghan Air Force received its first two Lockheed C-130H tactical transport aircraft on October 9th, 2013. The American airplanes were ‘targeted’ by the water guns of the Kabul Airport fire trucks immediately after arrival.

    A second batch of two ex-USAF C-130s will follow. After pressure from USAF senior officials the US Department of Defence scrapped the already procured 16 Alenia G222s, aka C-27As, from the Afghan Air Force service in 2012. At the time of the cancellation 12 of the 16 were mission-ready at Kabul with Afghan personnel partly responsible for the aircraft.

    Some hot shots in the US military thought better of the larger C-130, but according to critics the personnel competence problems with operating the Hercules will be the same as with the C-27s. With a lower number of aircraft – 4 against 16 – the transport fleet of the Afghan Air Force will be very much relying on US forces for some time to come.

    Source: ISAF with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger