FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2008
Release Number 20081812-01
CSTC-A refurbishes donated helicopters, helps build Afghan Air Corps
KABUL, Afghanistan – The first three of six Mi-35 attack helicopters for the Afghan National Army Air Corps, donated from the Czech Republic and refurbished by Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan, arrived recently, adding to the ANAAC’s fleet and growing capabilities.
The Czech Republic has already donated six Mi-17 cargo helicopters to CSTC-A for the ANAAC. The first three arrived in December 2007 and the other three in June 2008. The final three Mi-35s will arrive next year. CSTC-A paid $38 million for the refurbishment of the 12 helicopters.
The ANAAC provides trained and ready airmen and soldiers to execute critical air support to ANA. When directed by the Afghan Ministry of Defense, ANAAC also supports the civil authorities of Afghanistan at all levels.
“It makes sense because of these rocky mountains, the lack of good roads or railroads, and the forbidding terrain that covers much of the country and the threat of IEDs, that you should fly,” explained Air Force Col. Dan Miller, Combined Air Power Transition and Force 438 Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander. “Air power is extremely important in this operational environment that we are in right now.”
Ten months ago, NATO allies flew 90 percent of the missions in support of the Afghans. Today, Afghans fly 90 percent of their own missions as a result of the development of the Air Corps.
CAPTF, in coordination with Ministry of Defense and the Air Corps, is building the ANAAC utilizing two key principles: recertifying already-trained Afghan pilots, and using refurbished Soviet aircraft that are familiar platforms to these pilots and crews.
“Right now the ANAAC has 34 planes. Back in 2007, when we stood up, there were only 13,” said Miller.
“This task force is to build this Air Corps up. And we have a campaign plan that takes us out until 2016,” continued Miller. We’re building air power, organizing training equipment, simultaneously building their command and control, and we’re also building bases, infrastructure and simple things we take for granted in our military. We are doing this simultaneously while this war is going on, so we can walk away knowing they are fully independent and operationally capable.”
With over 300 pilots of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, the ANAAC has contributed to the fight, setting records this summer with over 100,000 kilograms of cargo and nearly 10,000 personnel transported. In the next seven years, CAPTF plans to strengthen the ANAAC from 2,000 personnel to more than 7,000, teaching and training them to counter insurgencies and putting Afghans in the lead.
According Miller, the ANAAC will receive 61 Mi-17V5 helicopters in the future. The V5 model is able to haul more troops and cargo, and Air Corps pilots already know how to fly these specific aircraft.
CSTC-A also plans to place helicopters throughout Afghanistan with Afghan Special Forces commandos so they would be able to support their air mobility requirements and quick reaction forces.
Not only is CSTC-A training pilots, but also maintenance men, with over 300 students trained to date. After 16 weeks of training at the Kabul Military Training Center, they then attend the Kabul Air Corp Training Center, an aviation branch school for the Air Corps. They then train in basic Air Corps Orientation, which includes basic maintenance, logistics, crew chief and rotary wing maintenance, and development of specific skill sets.
“Although the effort started rather late, it’s very gratifying to see the efforts of CSTC-A and CAPTF featured in the growing capability of the ANAAC,” explained Brig. Gen. Joshua Givhan, commander, 438th AEW. “It’s a Phoenix risen from the ashes.”
That Phoenix will soon support the entire Afghan theater, according to Miller.
“The Kabul Air Wing will eventually house approximately 3,500 personnel and the Kandahar Air Wing will house nearly 2,500 when the ANAAC matures to its 7,000 strong,” stated Miller. “And then there will be a mix of three regional support squadrons and two detachments, which will support all of Afghanistan.”