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Afghan airforce to be self sufficient by 2015

Afghan airforce to be self sufficient by 2015

Jan 25, 2008 - 13:30

NEW YORK (PAN): The Afghan Air Corps is expected to be self-sufficient and strong enough to meet the nations security needs by the 2015, a top US army official involved with training and development of its nascent wing of the Afghan Army said Thursday.

In 2015, at the end of present campaign plan beginning this year, Afghan Air Corps would have up to 112 aircrafts and 7,400 personnel, said Brigadier General Jay Lindell commander of the Combined Air Power Transition Force in Afghanistan. One-fourth of these would be fixed wing, light attack aircraft. It will also have a close air support capability designed for a counterinsurgency fight.

We plan to bring this air corps up to date with Western technology and do business similar to how the best air force in the world does it, the U.S. Air Force, and teach them how we do close air support so they can take over this mission in Afghanistan, Lindell said unfolding his vision of Afghan Air Corp.

Responsible for assisting Afghan government develop, equip and train the nascent Afghan Air Corps, Lindell told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from Kabul: W expect that they'll be fully operational with a light attack air frame by 2015.

Lindell said the air corps would continue to grow and develop and enhance mission capability. But in our eight-year campaign plan is what we believe we can build this air corps at an adequate level, where they are self-sufficient and they do have operational capability to meet their security needs, he said.

Having acquired three Czech Mi-17 helicopters in December and another two Antonov 32s in January, he said the Afghan Air Corps is on its way to acquire nine more helicopters within the next six months from the Czech Republic.

There will be two more Antonov 32 aircraft coming from the Ukraine, still, nine more aircraft from the United Arab Emirates and then a Slovak Republic Mi- 17, he said. Afghan Air Corps, at present, has some 1,950 personnel including 180 pilots, of which only 30 percent are actively flying.

So we've rapidly boosted the capability of this Afghan Air Corps., Lindell said, adding that at present it is focusing on mobility, and would not focus on combat operations for another three years.

This is primarily because it has a very old pilot force. Many of these pilots will be reaching a mandatory retirement age. It is a military service law that we expect the Afghan to have enacted this next year, he said.

We have enough pilots that are experienced in the Mi-17 and Antonov 32 aircraft that they're currently flying. But as these pilots age, we don't have enough in the long term to man a new weapons system in a light attack or ISR role. So it's a matter of training new pilots and developing their skills to man these platforms, he said.

Lindell said plans are afoot to start training 48 pilots a year from next year. Initially training would be in the United States, until local Afghan capabilities in this regard are developed.

So we won't have the pilots to man the aircraft after we focus on the mobility assets and then focus and build light attack and an intelligence surveillance reconnaissance capability. In addition, it permits us to develop the needed infrastructure to bed down these aircraft also, he said.

Lindell said given the training schedule it is unlikely the Afghan Air Corp would be capable of attacking capacity until 2013. It'll be a U.S.-led squadron as we train the Afghans how to do close air support and how to integrate with the ground forces in close air support mission. So it'll be through a process of training. It'll be about that 2013-2014 year before the Afghan Air Corps is certified in a close air support mission.