Afghan air force impressively progressing: US
WASHINGTON (PAN): The progress being made by Afghan air force is quite impressive and the Pentagon is primarily focused on helping it to be capable enough to protect the country in the years to come, a top US defence official said on Friday.
“One of our important missions is to help train the emerging Afghan Air Force, and that's an active part of what our Air Force is doing in Afghanistan and helping deliver the capabilities that they will need for the future,” said Michael Donley, the US Air Force Secretary, at a Pentagon news conference.
“We are very interested in the development of new pilots and of a professional Afghan air force that'll be able to meet their needs going forward. They are coming up the capability ramp.
They have shown increasing capability with the Mi-17 in particular,” he said, hoping to get the C-130s into Afghanistan soon. "We also hope to get the LAS delivered next year, as well,” Donley said in response to a question.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Mark Welsh, who was recently in Afghanistan, said he was quite impressed by the progress being made by the Afghan air force. “I think that our role will be to continue to train the Afghan Air Force as they develop into a force that can stand alone and support their security apparatus,” he said.
“I was struck by the talent level of the pilot force that was going through the training, particularly at Shindand Air Base. There are a number of Afghan air force members with huge experience in things like the Mi-17. I met one gentleman who has over 9,000 hours flying the Mi-17 helicopter. That is an awful lot of flying time in one platform,” he said.
“So their expertise in actually executing the mission is not insignificant. Most of the people who are being trained now or who are in the Afghan Air Force don't have a lot of expertise in running and managing an air force, so it's the larger logistical support, the infrastructure management, those kind of things that most of them didn't do because they were much younger when the Afghan Air Force was up and operating in the past,” Welsh said.
“And so they're trying to learn that now. Those are the things we think we can help them with over time. They have no problem flying airplanes and helicopters. They're really good at it,” the top US Air Force official said.
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