US and coalition airmen are preparing their Afghan counterparts for self-sufficiency.
August 17, 2009—USAF Brig. Gen. Walter Givhan, who has headed the Combined Air Power Transition Force in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters last week that his entity's short-term goal has been to get Afghan airmen engaged in combat operations, primarily handling some mobility missions, using older Russian fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
However, he noted that the fledgling Afghan air corps is poised to achieve initial operational capability with its Mi-35 attack helicopter force, making them available to engage in air strikes. Although, Givhan said, initially they would not engage in "full-fledged, close air support type roles." Instead they would fly "simpler roles having to do with escort and reacting to being fired upon."
To ensure the success of this short-term effort, the transition force brought back some experienced Afghan airmen and provided the aircraft they knew how to fly and maintain—such as Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters and An-32 transports.
The long-term goal, he said, involves developing necessary infrastructure and buying new aircraft. The plan includes expanding the current 2,700 Afghan air corps to about 7,250 airmen in 2016, with a fleet of about 139 aircraft.
That size force, said Givhan, should enable Afghanistan to meet its basic security requirements.
However, he added, an even longer-term goal includes a "continued partnership with the Afghan National Army Air Corps to help it develop its capabilities."
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