Friday, August 19, 2016

Afghan air force needs more pilots, as well as more planes

The Afghan air force is limited not only by its size. Despite numbering only 130 aircraft, there are not enough pilots and crews to fly them all.

The shortage is hampering Afghan security forces' ability to fight Taliban militants, who are once again gaining territory in the north and south of the country.

Troops on the ground are crying out for more air support, which ranges from firing on the enemy to evacuating casualties from the battlefield. The day Afghan aircraft can meet the high demand is still a long way off.

"Three weeks ago, two of our policemen were wounded in a fight with the Taliban and we waited for five days to transfer them to a hospital," said a border police commander in the eastern province of Kunar, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"Sometimes we have to wait a week for a helicopter to evacuate our casualties," added the officer, stationed in a remote area close to the Pakistani border.

Advisers for the U.S.-led NATO coalition, which is training Afghan armed forces now the alliance's main combat mission is over, say they are struggling to field enough experienced pilots and crews.

"Our challenge is the human capital," said Colonel Troy Henderson, commander of the U.S. Air Force's expeditionary advisory group in Kabul, noting it is relatively easy to buy aircraft but more difficult and slower to find and train pilots.

The roughly 130 aircraft are not enough, according to Major General Abdul Wahab Wardak, commander of the Afghan air force. And the problem is now compounded by a lack of trained crews for existing aircraft.

The United States has provided a growing number of more advanced aircraft in the past year, seeking to make up for the withdrawal of most international forces.

But in the process of building a special operations air wing and training crews to fly new aircraft like the small A-29 attack aircraft and C-130 cargo planes, coalition advisers had to pull experienced pilots from other units, Henderson said. - Read More

Afghan air force needs more pilots, as well as more planes


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