Afghan Air Force and the Special Mission Wing
(Source: SIGAR; issued Oct 30, 2015)
(The following is excerpted from the latest report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; link at bottom)
Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) reported that between FY 2010 and FY 2015, the United States has obligated more than $2.3 billion to develop the AAF, including over $905 million for equipment and aircraft.223 Since last quarter, DOD reduced its FY 2015 request from $925.2 million to $683.3 million.

The amount requested for training declined, but the amount for equipment and aircraft rose from $21.4 million to $173.5 million. However, the majority of the funding requested continues to be for sustainment. Additionally, the FY 2016 request is for $548.3 million, with the significant majority of the funds for training and sustainment.

According to USFOR-A, this quarter, the AAF aircraft inventory includes:
• 11 Mi-35 helicopters (one less than last quarter)
• 52 Mi-17 helicopters (four less)
• 16 MD-530 helicopters (two less)
• 26 C-208 airplanes
• 4 C-130 airplanes

Additionally, 20 A-29 Super Tucanos, a light-attack aircraft for counterinsurgency, close-air support, and aerial reconnaissance, have been purchased but are not yet delivered.

This quarter USFOR-A reported the first eight AAF pilots were qualified to fly the armed variant of the MD-530 helicopter.

Additionally, Afghan pilot training is ongoing in the United States on the A-29 Super Tucanos. The first class will graduate in December, which aligns with the first delivery of the A-29 Super Tucanos in the fourth quarter of 2015. That success is offset by the loss of two Mi-17 pilots killed during an aircraft accident.

For the fledging AAF, a DOD official told SIGAR, the loss of a pilot has an even greater impact than the loss of a plane.

USFOR-A reported a mix of internal and external contract-maintenance and logistics-management support as the goal for the AAF. The Afghans will perform routine maintenance and time-required inspections, while outside contractors will perform the heavy depot-level repairs and aircraft overhauls. USFOR-A estimates it will take five to seven years to develop the AAF organic maintenance workforce: 18 months is required to train an apprentice maintainer, and another two to three years is required to develop a craftsman-level maintainer.

The airframe expected to achieve the organic maintenance capability soonest is the C-208 in 2018; the C-130 and the new MD-530 are expected to achieve Afghan organic-maintenance status in 2023.

CSTC-A reported that between FY 2012 and FY 2015, the United States has invested over $1.77 billion in the development of the SMW, obligating more than $935.8 million of that amount for equipment and aircraft.

According to CSTC-A, the SMW fleet of 45 fielded aircraft comprises Mi-17 helicopters and PC-12 turboprop planes that perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. According to NSOCC-A, the SMW comprises 475 members, of which 102 are pilots, all part of the MOD.

Fifty-four additional personnel are undergoing entry, English-proficiency, and security background checks.

NSOCC-A reports the SMW has flown over 840 sorties in the Mi-17 as of September 1, 2015, compared to 400 during 2014. The PC-12 pilots have flown 972 sorties this year compared to 205 in 2014.

According to NSOCC-A, most modern aviation organizations contract for some of their maintenance due to the complexity of aviation systems. The goal for the SMW is 80% organic to 20% contract maintenance. It will take 60 months to fully train a Mi-17 or PC-12 mechanic according to NSOCC-A, marking the summer of 2020 as the earliest the SMW will have organic maintenance and repair capability.

In August 2014, the SMW had no inspection teams; now there are three 50-hour and one 100-hour scheduled inspection teams. Currently the Afghans perform approximately 20% (up from 15% last quarter) of the scheduled maintenance to the Mi-17 fleet. All PC-12 maintenance is performed by third-party contractors.

Click here for the full report (256 PDF pages) on the SIGAR website.


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