Afghan National Air Corps Spreads Its Wings

9-Apr-2010 Source: Royal Air Force

The Kandahar Air Wing of the Afghanistan National Air Corps has come on leaps and bounds since its arrival in October 2009. Now there are 572 personnel established on the wing, including experienced pilots, trainee pilots, engineers, logistics and admin. Wednesday and Sundays are official training days when taskings are concentrated on developing the combat ready capability of experienced pilots, although no operational tasking is ever turned down.

Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai had returned from a re-supply mission but also told of how the Air Corps had assisted local people during a torrential flood last month. “The river and wadi’s had burst their banks and local people were trapped in their compounds and some were in the water. We landed our helicopters as close as possible, rescuing up to 30 people”. He explained how Kandahar Air Wing would also be military support to civil aid as well as conduct operational sorties.

Brigadier General Mohammed Yousuf, the deputy commander of the Kandahar air wing pointed to what looked like a building site in the distance. “We are increasing our footprint”, he said “more room is being created for us to house Mi-17 helicopters. We currently have four but there are planned to be 14 by 2011. Our numbers of Mi-35 helicopters will increase too. A patch of airfield space is also being developed for our training.

Whilst Kabul Air Wing is still the centre of gravity for the Air Corps with most fixed wing aircraft (including C-27’s, An-32’s and An-26’s) based there; there is a palpable excitement and buzz at Kandahar. Engineers are stripping down a Mi-17 helicopter for a 50 hour deep servicing. There are challenges as most of the technical manuals are in Russian but many of the engineers know this aircraft inside out. Colonel Bernard Mater, USAF, who is the senior air advisor to the Kandahar Air Wing is genuinely impressed with the development of the whole team.

“You can either teach, coach, mentor or advise”, he said, “but with the Afghan Air Corps we advise where necessary. It would be wrong to impose other nations’ ways of doing business and to be honest the partnership works as we learn from each other”.

The Royal Air Force’s 903 Air Expeditionary Wing at Camp Bastion also contributed to the learning process when 2 Mi-17s came across to Helmand to support Op Moshtarak last month.

“We developed pilot’s awareness of landing and take-off procedures, translating the local air traffic orders into Pashtun and showing pilots our radio protocols”, said Wing Commander Craig Mason.

A third wing is expected to be ultimately co-located with the flying training academy planned to be set up at Shindad. It is exciting times as the fixed and rotary wings are rapidly expanding; and the whole squadron ethos at Kandahar is very much in evidence as aircrew and ground crew banter abounds….just like squadrons around the world.

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