Afghan Mi-35s start operations with NATO forces

Afghan Mi-35s start operations with NATO forces

2-Sep-2010 Source: NATO Training Mission

The Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopter is the Afghan Air Force’s main gunship with Afghan aircrews trained by NATO forces from various countries including Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The adage: crawl, walk, run often describes military training and the Afghan Mi-35 crews are in the walking phase, building confidence to take control of the skies. U.S. Army Apache helicopter personnel from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) assist combat operations with Afghan aircrews as they develop Mi-35 capabilities.

“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,” said Maj. Caleb Nimmo, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Combined Air Power Transition Force, with the U.S. Air Force.

Nimmo is the only American pilot trained to fly the Mi-35 and advises the Afghan Air Force.

On Aug. 18, 2010, the Afghan Mi-35 aircrews put their training to use during what would have been an armed patrol in the region of Ghazni, where 3rd CAB engaged the enemy multiple times in the last month. The area is considered a hotbed for IED emplacements. The plan was to deny the region as a safe-haven for insurgents in the south.

En route to Ghazni, Apaches from 3rd CAB received an urgent call reporting a convoy attack along their designated route. The combined patrol air unit re-directed to engage the enemy. The Apaches from 3rd CAB took the lead as  the pre-mission brief directed, and the Afghan Mi-35’s helped add to the overwhelming and intimidating airpower. The insurgents ceased attack and withdrew from the area.

“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. Learning points will be added to the standard operating procedures. Both sides recognized that they worked well together and actually complement each other on their respective aircraft’s capabilities and individual pilot’s skills.

“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,” said Nimmo.

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