Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR_Feb2012 Contents 34 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
at Shindand, the only Air Force training base in
On May 26, 2011, a contract was signed
for 26 Cessna 208B Grand Caravans and six
Cessna 182Ts for the Afghan Air Force, worth
US$88.5 million. The first Cessna 208B left for
Afghanistan on October 12, arriving at Shindand
several days later. It was followed shortly by
two more. Ultimately, Shindand will operate
12 208Bs and Kabul International Airport will
receive 14. They will be used as advanced
trainers for undergraduate pilot training,
initial qualification, upgrade training and light
In addition to fixed wing aircraft, the Afghan Air
Force received six MD530F light helicopters in
late 2011. MD Helicopters in March last year won
the competition that could see deliveries of 54
helicopters over four years. The first three Afghan
MD530Fs were presented to the US Army as part
of the Rotary Wing Primary Training Aircraft-
Afghanistan Programme on September 13.
The Afghan Air Force already has six Mi-17s
for training. As of November 2011, the AAF had
12 Mi-17 crews who could perform missions
by themselves. Russian helicopters make up
the core of Afghanistan’s helicopter fleet, in
both attack and transport roles since those
helicopters are familiar to Afghanistan’s armed
forces and are well suited to the country’s
extreme environmental conditions.
At present there are 35 Mi-17s and nine Mi-35s
flying with the AAF. In January 2009 Afghanistan
received six refurbished Mi-35 attack helicopters
from the Czech Republic and a total of 15 have
been delivered, of which six are operational.
These ‘flying tanks’ are armed with four barrelled
12.7 mm machine guns and 57 mm rockets.
The Mi-17 fleet is to grow to 56 by 2013,
including three Mi-17DVs for VIP transport. To
this end, on May 26, 2011, Rosoboronexport
signed a US $375 million deal for 21 Mi-17V5
helicopters as well as ground support equipment,
spares and maintenance support. The first
nine were delivered by December 30 while the
remainder will arrive within the first half of
this year. A maintenance facility for Mi-17s has
also been established in Afghanistan, with the
first 30 local technicians graduating from their
maintenance course on August 24.
The Mi-17V5 is a modernised version of the
Mi-17 with a loading ramp, additional door and
new dolphin nose. According to Russian media,
the US is negotiating with Rosoboronexport for
another 18 Mi-17V5s.
The Mi-17s are multipurpose aircraft are not
simply used to support military operations.
For instance, the Afghan Air Force sent four
Mi-17s with all Afghan crews to support Pakistan
flood relief operations in July/August 2010. Over
27 days the aircraft rescued 120 people and
evacuated 1 904. During the September 2010
parliamentary elections the Afghan Air Force
delivered and retrieved 67 000 kg of ballot cargo
and 390 policing officials and flew air patrols to
ensure security over the country.
The first fixed wing transports for Afghanistan’s
air arm were two Antonov An-26s and three
An-32s, but four refurbished An-32s were
purchased by the US from Ukraine and delivered
in 2008. Due to serviceability and lifespan issues,
the An-26 was phased out of service at the
beginning of 2011, with the An-32 following suit
later in the year.
They are being replaced by 20 refurbished
ex-Italian Air Force Alenia G.222/C-27As, built
between 1977 and 1985. The contract for an
initial 18 C-27As, worth US $287 million, was
signed with Alenia North America in September
2008, and another two were ordered in
September 2010. The aircraft were modernised
with new avionics and ballistic protection and
began arriving in Afghanistan on November 12,
2009. An initial 30 Afghan pilots, who flew the
An-26/32, travelled to the United States for pilot
and language training.
The first Afghan C-27A flew its first operational
mission on March 24, 2010. On September 20,
2011, Alenia North America announced it had
delivered another three C-27s to Afghanistan,
bringing the fleet to 14. Two of the aircraft can be
configured to carry VIP modules for presidential
and VIP airlift.
The only fixed wing combat aircraft the AAF
had were three Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros
trainer/light attack aircraft, the survivors of 26
delivered in Soviet times. It has been reported
that they last flew in August 2009 and current
NATO inventory lists make no mention of them.
To replace them, the US is supplying 20
counterinsurgency aircraft under the Light
Air Support programme. Hawker Beechcraft’s
AT-6 Texan II and Embraer’s Super Tucano were
evaluated in a flyoff conducted in January 2011.
On December 30 the Pentagon announced
Embraer and its American partner Sierra Nevada
Corporation had won the US $355 million
contract, which includes training equipment
and support. Deliveries are scheduled for 2013.
“The LAS platform signals a milestone in
moving beyond lift and rotary wing where we’re
really not going after the enemy,” Ray said shortly
after the Super Tucano contract was announced.
“The Tucano is the most kinetic, most offensive
aircraft they’ll have, and I’m sure a big morale
boost to the troops on the ground when they see
it overhead. It’s the right kind of platform for the
terrain, the fight and most importantly, it’s easy
The Mi-17s are multipurpose aircraft are not simply used to
support military operations.
Afghan Air Force Cessna 182T arrives at Shindand
Credit: USAF / Matthew Smith
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