Getting Afghans Into the Air

Afghan-air-corps.jpg

About two months ago, the American military went into high gear to create an air corps for Afghanistans military. Of course, that seems like a long time in coming, but commanders there wanted to set their priorities on building a robust ground force before switching to the more complicated task of forming an aviation force.

According to the general in charge of establishing the new Afghan air corps which will be the aviation wing of the Afghan National Army the coalition is building the fledgling fleet at a fever pace. In an interview with military bloggers Wednesday, Air Force Brig. Gen. Jay Lindell said his 130 member team got started in earnest to build an air corps for the Afghan military on a pretty tight schedule. Luckily, its not as if the team is building the Afghan air corps from the ground up. Currently, the Afghan air corps has seven Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters; six Mi-35 Hind attack helos; two An-32 Cline and two An-26 Curl fixed-wing transport aircraft and two Czech-made L-39 Albatross training aircraft - used primarily for flight demonstration shows.

But the coalition isnt stopping there. The air corps is in the process of receiving several Russian-made troop-carrying helicopters from allies. The list includes: six Mi-17s and six Mi-35s from the Czech Republic; one Mi-17 from Slovakia; 10 Mi-17s from the United Arab Emirates and four An-32s from the Ukraine. All of these aircraft should be here in Kabul in the next six months, Lindell said.

The coalition trainers are also checking out whats available to boost the Afghans medium lift transport inventory. That procurement will be handled through the U.S. foreign military sales accounts, but Lindell said he likes the looks of the C-27A Spartan, though Lindell is looking at refurbished versions of this Italian-made transport.

So who exactly is going to fly these birds, you ask? Well, Lindell said there are 165 Afghan pilots currently in the Afghan air corps. Theyre Soviet trained, run about 2,500 flight hours each, but theyre on average about 43 years old. Theyre actually very capable pilots. Theyre not too current. Thats why we need to get them the aircraft to fly in, Lindell said.

The air corps has its own crew of instructors and they have a Soviet-era flight training syllabus theyre already familiar with, so getting them up to speed wont be too difficult. Its the night and foul-weather operations that are going to be the toughest to train. The plan is to establish mobile training teams manned by Eastern European NATO pilots who fly the same types of aircraft to mentor the Afghan pilots on all-weather, day-night tactical flying.

Lindell hopes to set up a training program for new pilots to ascend through the ranks from the Afghan National Military Training Academy in Kabul, so a fresh generation of Afghan air corps pilots can take over for the vets.

Of course, logistics is what makes a functioning air corps and Lindell is bullish on the Afghans capabilities there. Hes seen a knack for keeping aircraft aloft with even the most rudimentary resources (just ask the spooks who flew into Afghanistan in 2001), but a good inventory of spare parts and modern maintenance equipment will also be needed.

The Afghan air corps has ability and desire. They need resources to give them capability, Lindell said.

— Christian

  • Solomon
  • 22lr

    Ya your right, there just afghans they only beat Russia in war, they don’t stand a chance *sarcasm*. Dude this is a good start, and they have to start somehow. They arnt going to be the best overnight, but they have good potential. There society of tribes sure beat the crap out of the Russians. Ability and Desire is the very thing they have.

  • Foreign.Boy

    Solomon,
    Don’t you think that heli-borne troops would be necessary the mountain fighting they’ll eventually need to take on?

  • Solomon

    That was suppose to be load…I was beyond “pissed” after reading this article.

  • campbell

    sigh….once again, please READ the articles, and posts, before making additional remarks.
    the article says the “AIR CORP” has ability and desire; it does not address “afghans” as a whole, nor their infantry skills or lack thereof, nor their tribal associations. It speaks of the AIR CORP. Small it may be (with 165 pilots), and an un-named number of support personnel.
    having said the above, I’d add my own take on the effort described in the article:
    why bother? Afghanistan is destined to be simply a drive thru for Pakistan/Iran…..as it has been for centuries, from Alexander to the British to USSR

  • Solomon

    22lr
    That tribal society only beat the Soviets back due to the funding provided by the CIA and a good supply of MANPADS. Even then, the Afghans were on the verge and only a softening by the Soviets allowed them to claim victory. On what do you base the statement that they have good potential? Some hack that wears stars in the Air Force? Not bloody likely. How long have we been at war in Afghanistan? And where would you rate their military??? Until they have a truly functioning Army, an Air Force is a luxury. I view this as pork and only pork. I am not convinced.
    Foreign Boy
    Helo-borne troops again is a luxury until they have demonstrated the basic Infantry skills. Helo borne assaults are an advanced skill set. Until you can point out an Afghan soldier thats been to pathfinder school or HRST master course, then they don’t need to go near a helicopter(the 101st has been there, but I don’t know if they’ve ran them through any courses). Mountain Warfare is indeed what they need to be gearing up for and until they send some of their people to Ft Drum or Bridgeport (or hell they can even do some good OJT in their own backyard again I know the 10th Mountain and Rangers were their so maybe they’ve tried) they’ll never get that job done. Just my opinion

  • 22lr

    I never said they were already the best. I said they have ability and desire. The AF has a role in spraying poppie crops that the Taliban (and others) are using to make opium. Also they have to start someware, and at the beginning is a good starting point. Any person that has ability and desire is a potent weapon.

  • demophilus

    The C-27 might be a good fit for interoperability with our forces, but the Antonovs are dirt cheap, and there are a lot of pilots out there with time in type, including Afghanis. Ditto for L-39s.
    IIRC, Air America and the USAF had some success with the Pilatus Porter/PC-6/AU-23. Of course, that was pretty much before MANPADS, but there it is. If they need something to fly in and out of mountain airstrips, they could do worse than buying Swiss.

  • Ziv

    Solomon, I have read that the USSR’s military thought pretty much the same way you do about the Afghani military capability in 1978, they too mistook a tribal society for a weak one. I would stand with Nate Forrest (admittedly probably apocryphal) on this one, if the Afghani Army can get to a hotspots ‘Fustest with the Mostest’ they will kick the Taliban to the curb every time. They won’t be fighting Rangers or Marines, they don’t have to be up to western standards, they just have to deploy a credible force over long distances as rapidly as possible despite horrendous ground transport conditions.
    It doesn’t matter in the least that their ‘tribal’ society needed the CIA’s help to defeat the USSR and its local lackeys, Afghanistan will have western help against any of their most probable enemies anyway. Forget the C-27, they almost might be beter served by deploying a squadron of rebuilt C-47 Dakotas. Low tech and simple beats high tech and broke most every time.

  • Solomon

    demophilus
    If they’re going to have an air force then I prefer your solution more than what they’re trying to put together right now.
    Ziv
    A tribal society is not weak, just primitive. If locating, closing with and destroying the enemy was all it took to win insurgencies then we’d be out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Being able to deploy a battalion or two of indigenous fighters will not change the conditions on the ground (in my opinion). As far as western support for the Afghan government fighters is concerned…WE ARE NOW IN THE ROLE OF THE SOVIETS…with the Iranians and certain factions in Pakistan playing the part of the US! But again thats just my opinion.

  • Rix

    People forget that the Afghan air force, in the 1980’s was one of the most battle hardened forces around…they flew migs in ground attack combat every day against advanced MANPADs and Oerlikon guns. For what they will face…good preparation.

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    That was suppose to be load…I was beyond “pissed” after reading this article.

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  • Meleklermekan?

    That was suppose to be load…I was beyond “pissed” after reading this article.

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  • greg stocks

    iam still for turning the place into glass its time we let the world see what could happen when they mess with us. we must never get to the place where we don’t have the balls to do what we need to do to win a war, iam begining to wander…9/11 have we forgotten…