The first four Embraer A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircaft for the Afghan Air Force arrived in Kabul this weekend, Afghan defense officials have said. The delivery follows last month’s graduation of the first class of Afghan pilots for the type.
Afghanistan has acquired twelve more MD 530F Cayuse Warrior Scout Attack Helicopters, MD Helicopters reported on Tuesday 11 January. The purchase follows an earlier order for twelve similar helicopters, the first of which arrived in Afghanistan early last year.
The first twelve armed helicopters were operational in theater in fewer than nine months from contract award and have participated in a number of successful operations. Afghanistan already operated five MD 530F helos before, operating them as primary training aircraft in Afghanistan. These choppers have since been upgraded to the Cayuse Warrior configuration.
The 12 new Cayuse Warrior Scout Attack helicopters will be delivered in the first half of 2016, MD Helicopters says.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A US Air Force C-130J Super Hercules crashed in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, leaving six crew members and their five civilian passengers dead. The crash happened early in the morning of Friday 2 October at Jalalabad Airport.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, but claims about involvement have been made already by the Taliban. US sources however say an accident is likely to have caused the crash. The lost Hercules belonged to the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, part of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing and stationed at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
The Danish Armed Forces end their EH101 helicopter deployment to the NATO/international forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday 29 September 2015. Most of the 70 personnel returns home on that day, while the helicopters first head to Portugal.
The EH101s (called Merlin in UK service) were operating from Camp Marmal near Mazar-i-Sharif since Summer 2014, tasked with transport, evacuation and troop extraction/insertion.
According to Danish military sources the Helicopter Wing based at Karup Airbase will now first retrain on its core combat tasks, to be back at full capability again in 2016. It is a regular issue with deployments that not all tasks are being trained, reducing the operational readiness of the entire unit somewhat.
Three Danish EH101 formed part of the air component of the Danish-German joint unit in Mazar-i-Sharif, with the Germans operating their larger CH-53s. One chopper was damaged and had to return because of that, but with the remaining two the unit managed to spent 634 hours in the air.
Fresh crews will use the two remaining helicopters first during a military exercise in Portugal, where they train together with EH101s of the Força Aérea Portuguesa. After that they will be cleaned from all dust and sand before they return to Karup.