Tag Archives: Afghanistan

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.


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An Afghan National Army Mil Mi-17V5 (Image © Russian Helicopters)
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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)
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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)

RAF Chinooks heading home after 13 years

The Royal Air Force Chinook medium-size helicopter fleet has began wrapping up its operations in Afghanistan, after 13 years of continuous support to British and other military forces fighting the Taliban and terrorist groups in the Asian country.

The “Wokka Wokkas” were stationed at the military section of Kabul International Airport lately. The first Chinook left for home – RAF Odiham – on board a RAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III on 25 April 2014. According to a RAF news release the Chinook force has flown over 41,000 hours in Afghanistan skies and extracted 13,000 casualties from the battlefield. First as part of Operation Herrick – the British part of the Allied ops since 2002 – and as part of Operation Toral since last year.

RAF Puma 2 crews and choppers from RAF Benson have taken over the Chinooks role on 1 April 2015, and will continue to fly in support of the mainly NATO forces that help train and support the Afghan National Army “until the mission is complete”, according to the RAF.

Falklands
For the Chinooks, a new operations base is literately on the other side of the horizon. The UK Ministry of Defence has decided to base two of the choppers at RAF Mount Pleasant, to beef up the defences on the Falkland Islands / Islas Malvinas after Argentina has been trying lately to be able to reach the British controlled islands again, including influencing this fun story about the possibility of buying Russian-made bombers.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A RAF Chinook HC2 (Image (PB) Adrian Pingstone)

Italy testing upgraded attack helo in Afghanistan

The Italian Army deployed an upgraded version of its Mangusta attack helicopter to Afghanistan for operational testing, Italian sources confirm.

The AW129D has been tested on the ranges in Sardinia, where it apparently also flew airborne forward air control and laser targeting mission for Italian Air Force jets, but the Esercito Italiano now wants a real test. The D-version has a 20 mm gun, plus a Rafael Toplite III EOS turret and can launch Spike Extended Range missiles. The new Toplite is a big improvement to the former HeliTow. It enables Mangusta crews to detect and identify targets much further away then before, although how far exactly has actually not been disclosed.

The AW129D arrived with NATO’s Train Advise Assist Command West (TAAC-W) – with Herat Airfield as regional support field – in November, where older AW129CBTs already flew more than 10,000 flight hours. The Mangustas fly combat missions in pairs and ground support missions mostly together with an NH90 with special forces troops on board.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by the Esercito Italiano

An Italian Army AW129 Mangusta (Image © AgustaWestland)
An Italian Army AW129 Mangusta (Image © AgustaWestland)

Dutch F-16s snap 3 million images of Afghanistan

RecceLite pod on a RNLAF F-16 (Image © NL Ministry of Defence)
RecceLite pod on a RNLAF F-16 (Image © NL Ministry of Defence)

A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter made the 3 millionth Dutch image of Afghanistan with the photo reconnaissance system RecceLite in mid-June.

The Koninlijke Luchtmacht (KLu) detachment has been using the recce pod in Afghanistan since 2009, making tens of thousands of photos every day. They help to detect so-called improvised explosive devices (‘home-made bombs’) that pose a threat to soldiers and civilians on the ground.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force are the only assets in northern Afghanistan to use advanced photo recon technology.

KLu F-16 also provide close air support when requested by NATO/ISAF command and have been doing that ever since the multi-role fighters were first deployed in the Asian country in 2002.

Source: Press release NL MoD

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