LAGHMAN PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN, –
During the conflicts in Afghanistan between the Afghan National Defense Security Forces, the Taliban, and ISIS-Khurasan, the ability to conduct battle from the air is a capability that decisively changes the situation on the ground for those who have it. In the dynamic security environment of Afghanistan, the Afghan government requires a strong security force that can prevent the enemies of Afghanistan from seizing ground and threatening stability in the country. In order to do this, ANDSF has to stay relevant in the techniques of modern warfare without relying on foreign assistance. Chief Warrant Officer 2 William Knox, an Aviation Warrant Officer with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the lead advisor for aviation to the 201st Selab Corps of the Afghan National Army, has been training, advising, and assisting his Afghan counterparts to work through the complexities of requesting and executing airstrikes with Afghan owned and operated equipment during his tour in eastern Afghanistan.
Two of the strongest assets within the Afghan military are the MD530 attack helicopter and the A-29 Super Tucano, a light-attack fixed-wing aircraft, which provide a powerful air superiority against the Taliban, ISIS-K, and the various affiliated extremists fighting ground campaigns within Afghanistan.
“The Afghan Airforce is currently maturing and the capabilities are starting to really evolve,” said Knox. “One of the things I push for in Aviation advising is trying as best as I can to pull back from being reactive by immediately providing them coalition assets. I’m willing and patient enough to ask them what they can bring to the table first.”
The A-29 can be used for both deliberate strikes and close air support that Soldiers on the ground can use to turn the tide of the fight among many other roles like reconnaissance, escort and shows of force. The Afghan ground forces have traditionally viewed the A-29 as a deliberate strike platform while the MD530 has satisfied the role of close air support in the past, though both airframes can conduct other roles such as convoy escort and aerial escort to name a few.
However, using these capabilities requires complex coordination to ensure it is done safely, accurately and with the desired effect.
The A-29 is a national level asset which means it can be used by different organizations in the country, so using it requires pre-planning to make it available over the battlefield at the time it is required, said Knox. The 201st Corps makes sure the planning is done to maximize the use of the airplane.
“I’ve tried to implement anything and everything I know about Aviation to talk about it and think it through,” said Knox, referring to training the 201st Corps to plan and use the A-29.
Knox has been a Blackhawk pilot in the Georgia Army National Guard for 5-years and was an Infantryman before becoming a Aviation Warrant Officer. On the civilian side, Knox is an airport security instructor where he trains people on new equipment and behavioral awareness. His background in Aviation and his experience as an instructor both come to bare when training his Afghan counterparts.
As their capabilities evolve, the Afghan Air Force and the Afghan National Army are able to incorporate their own air superiority into their operations and become an even more formidable security force in the region.
“I started early on with my counterpart by saying, ‘I don’t know when we’re leaving the country. It could be 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years. I can’t tell you that. I can tell you at some point in time we are leaving, and the reliance on us to provide air support can’t be the only solution,’” said Knox. “So let’s work to figure out an Afghan solution that will endure past us. An Afghan solution is a thousand times better than a U.S. one.”