“The reason we are working together is to combine the capabilities of the Mi-35 with the capabilities of the Apache. We have trained together in the past, and it was time to start operating together” explains Maj. Caleb Nimmo, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Combined Air Power Transition Force.
Nimmo, of the U.S. Air force, is the only American pilot trained to fly the Mi-35 and has been advising the Afghan Air Force since April.
On Aug. 18 the Afghan Mi-35 aircrews were able to put their training to good use during what would have been an armed patrol in the region of Ghazni, where 3rd CAB has engaged the enemy multiple times in the last month and is considered a hotbed for Improvised explosive device emplacements. The plan was to begin denying the region as a safe-haven for insurgents in the south.
En route to Ghazni Apaches from 3rd CAB received an urgent call that a convoy was being attacked along their designated route and so the combined patrol air unit re-directed the efforts in the hopes of directly engaging the enemy. Arriving on station the Apaches from 3rd CAB took the lead as directed from the pre mission brief, but the Afghan Mi-35’s helped add to the overwhelming and intimidating airpower, causing the insurgents to cease their attack and withdraw from the immediate area without the patrol firing a single shot. This would be a blessing as the area was full of civilians.
“We did not shoot any ordnance. There were too many civilians nearby and the collateral damage would have been too great,” said Nimmo.
This was the first operational mission between the two squadrons and as such there will be some learning points added to the standard operating procedures, but overall the feeling after the mission was positive. Both sides recognized that they worked well together and actually complement each other in their respective aircraft's capabilities and individual pilot's skill sets. Currently the squadrons plan to fly together once a week until the end of Ramadan and then they will increase their activity in order to increase the pressure on the insurgency.
Nimmo is quick to point out that 3rd CAB has embraced the Afghan Air Force and the inclusion of the Afghan squadrons into their operations.
“They [3rd CAB] understand the importance of working with the Afghans to gain the support of the relevant Afghan population to counter the insurgency in Afghanistan. Hopefully other agencies in the International Security Assistance Force will proactively begin to include Afghans in their operations, so we can ultimately turn the country back over to the Afghan government”.
Afghan Mi-35s Begin Operations with NATO Forces