Shares Successes and
Challenges of Afghan Air Corps
army air corps is going through rapid growth, but it will take
eight years for the force to be self-sustaining
and independent, the commander of the Combined Air Power Transition Force said
from his headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Brig. Gen. Jay H. Lindell told Pentagon reporters via video-teleconference
the air corps has doubled its capability since October and that he expects
it to double again in the next six months.
His 133 U.S.
servicemembers are helping the Afghan National Army establish
the air corps. Ultimately, the force will have 112 aircraft
and 7,400 personnel. It now has 1,950 personnel, about 180
of them pilots.
has an eight-year campaign plan to acquire aircraft and train
the force, but it is flying now.
well on our way,” Lindell said.
The air corps
now has four Antonov fixed-wing transport planes and 16 Mi-17
and Mi-35 helicopters. The general said the force will receive
16 more Mi-17, six more Mi-35 helicopters, and four more Antonovs
in the next six months. The air corps also will buy 20 C-27A
Spartan aircraft, with the first set to arrive in June 2009.
The air corps
is engaged in operations daily, Lindell said, flying five fixed-wing
missions each day. The command, with Afghan National Army concurrence,
has decided to concentrate on building the air mobility aspect
of the air corps. “That is the urgent and most critical
need that the Afghan national security forces need,” the
The air corps
will pick up these logistical missions that the Afghan National
Army has relied on U.S. or NATO forces to perform.
the rotary-wing side, they are actually performing more training
missions than operational right now,” Lindell said, adding
that medical evacuation missions are on the air corps’ near
will soon start medevac operations here out of Kabul, and in
three months we plan to have medevac operations established
at Kandahar with the Afghan air corps,” the general said.
force is flying and growing, the air corps suffers from a lack
of trained personnel and an aging pilot force. The average
age of air corps pilots is 43, and some have not flown for
15 years, he said. The Afghan military has not trained a new
pilot since 1992.
Afghan pilots that are currently flying are very good stick-and-rudder
pilots,” Lindell said. “They’re very competent;
they’re professional. They can fly the missions that they’re
assigned to today. It’s just that they do not have the resources.”
pilots are “day pilots,” Lindell said. They do
not fly at night or in limited visibility.
this force ages, it won’t sustain this air corps for the long
term, and we are developing plans to train new pilots and bring
youth into the program,” he said.
hopes to begin training 48 pilots a year beginning this year.
That will take some years to develop, and at first, the Afghan
pilots will train outside the country, probably in the United
we hope to develop our training capacity in country here, Afghans
training Afghans to be new pilots for this air corps,” Lindell
years, the command hopes to begin training Afghan army air
corps personnel to pick up more missions, such as direct ground
support and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance capability.
ground crews and maintenance technicians are retired Afghan
personnel. They do on-the-job training with their maintenance
technicians. The command is working on a formal technical training
school that will be developed in Kabul.
will start that coursework this year,” Lindell said. “We
will recruit personnel. They’ll go through their military basic
training, and then we’ll run them through our aviation branch
school training here in this technical training center as we
develop these maintenance technicians.”
the air corps will graduate about 20 personnel from the tech
school, ramping up to at least 350 a year over the next two
The air corps
uses Eastern Bloc aircraft because that is what the Afghans
are used to. However, servicing the aircraft presents problems. “We’re
not in good shape, and we do have parts problems,” Lindell
Lindell’s command let a $20 million contract to order
parts for Afghanistan’s legacy aircraft: the Antonov
aircraft and the Mi-17s and Mi-35s.
received some of those parts,” he said. “We also
plan to put on contract the logistics sustainment system. The
logistics sustainment system will be initially a contractor
that will help supply-chain management with the right parts,
with the right certified quality parts for these legacy aircraft,
help us with the support equipment, help us with the tooling
necessary to maintain them, help us with the tech orders that
we need to maintain these aircraft, and some training for the
Afghan maintenance personnel.”
campaign plan is ambitious, but doable, he said.
believe we can build this air corps to an adequate level where
they are self-sufficient and they do have operational capability
to meet their security needs,” Lindell said. “I’m
just extremely proud of the 133 personnel assigned to the Combined
Air Power Transition Force, as we build and develop this Afghan