Delivery of 5 attack helicopters boosts AAF capability
KABUL (Pajhwok): The United States has delivered five attack helicopters to the nascent Afghan Air Force (AAF), providing it with an expanded capability to support ground combat operations.
The five new MD-530 Cayuse Warrior helicopters arrived at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on June via a C-17 Globemaster III from Travis Air Force Base, California,
Lt. Col. Bill Ashford, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander, said:"These latest (MD-530s) have the capability to fire rockets or .50-caliber machine guns and sighting systems that aren't on the previously-delivered helicopters."
In a statement, Ashfordsaid: "We are also getting kits to modify the existing 13 to be able to support guns and rockets, but these five will be the first with both capabilities in service here."
The new helicopters increase the AAF inventory from 13 to 18. "Some Afghans were skeptical of the MD-530 when it first started operating, however, it has proven itself in combat,” said Ashford.
“Now everyone wants MD-530 support. The pilots are doing great work flying daily combat missions supporting (ANA) troops on the ground and escorting AAF Mi-17s in the air.”
Ashford said all of the helicopters were shipped from MD Helicopters Inc., in Mesa, Ariz., and all 18 are armed with two .50-caliber machine gun pods. The first six were delivered in March 2015 to help fulfill aerial fires gap for the 2015 Fighting Season.
At a price of about $5 million each, the MD-530 provides both an economical and critical air-to-ground capability, enabling pilots to engage the enemy. As with all major systems procured for the AAF, the MD-530s were purchased using the Afghan Security Forces Fund.
By the end of August 2016, the AAF is scheduled to receive nine more MD-530s for a total strength of 27.
Gen. Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the US handed over five new MD-530 Cayuse Warrior helicopters to AAF on Saturday.
He said the copters would help Afghan ground forces in their anti-rebel offensive and would provide air support to the troops on the ground.
He said the US earlier also provided similar copters and was expected more copters and aircraft to be inducted in AAF.
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