Wednesday, May 17, 2017

US to provide Afghanistan with 159 Black Hawks to help break 'stalemate' - Militarytimes

As part of Afghanistan’s four-year road map to double its 17,000-strong special forces unit and bolster the Afghan Air Force, the U.S. will provide Afghanistan with 159 refurbished UH-60A Black Hawks to replace its aging fleet of Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters, according to Afghan and U.S. defense officials.  

Ahmad Shah Katawazai, defense liaison and security expert at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., told Military Times that the addition of Black Hawks to the Afghan fleet is vital for giving the security forces leverage needed to end the stalemate. 

“We are in the midst of an insurgency where the enemy is getting tacit support from neighboring countries. Our security forces are under immense pressure as they are fighting each day, on several fronts, with more than 20 terrorist organizations.”  

The development comes after Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, testified before the Senate Armed Forces Committee in February that more U.S. troops were needed to help break the "stalemate" against terrorists groups fighting there. 

However, the 159 Black Hawks nearly doubles the Afghan Air Force's current fleet of 78 Mi-17s, calling into question whether Afghanistan has the capability to maintain such a large fleet of U.S.-made helicopters.  And not everyone agrees that the UH-60 is a good fit for Afghanistan. 

“Given that it takes substantial U.S. support to maintain the airframes that the Afghan Air Force has already, it doesn't seem feasible that they would be able to support that many Black Hawks without a significant contribution from NATO,” Dr. Matthew Archibald, an independent researcher and consultant on South Asian issues, told Military Times.

According to latest estimates from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction , roughly 18 of Afghanistan’s Russian Mi-17s are unusable, two of the four C-130s are undergoing serious repair and one MD-530 crashed as a result of mechanical failure. Though the report acknowledges that most of the issues with the Mi-17 stem from their overuse, as Afghanistan heavily relies on the lumbering helicopter for troop transport, air assault operations and, at times, for offensive ground air support. - Read More
US to provide Afghanistan with 159 Black Hawks to help break 'stalemate'

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