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US A-10 Thunderbolt II joins Afghan air campaign

US A-10 Thunderbolt II joins Afghan air campaign

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Jan 23, 2018 - 20:58

KANDAHAR (Pajhwok): The United States has sent a squadron of A-10C ground attack planes to target Talibaninfo-icon hideouts and drug labs that funds the insurgency, the Resolute Support mission said on Tuesday.

The dispatch is part of President Donald Trump's new strategy to eliminate drug labs that have funded the terrorists and warlords in Afghanistaninfo-icon.

Those aircraft will be joined by MQ-9 Reaper drones for "armed overwatch" and reconnaissance, and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters for personnel recovery, according to a news release.

Commonly known as the Warthog, the A-10’s returned to Afghanistan on Jan. 19 to support the increased need for close air support and precision strike capacity for a variety of efforts, including the strategic air campaign targeting Taliban revenue sources and counter-terrorism operations that continue to take place.

The aircraft arrival follows a recent decision by US Air Forces Central Command to realign aircraft, airmen, and assets already in the US Central Command AOR to Kandahar Airfield.

The move is aimed to support increased airpower requirements of ANDSF and USFOR-A to implement South Asia Policy under “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.”

Along with a detachment of KC-135 Stratotankers that have operated from Kandahar since September, the A-10s, MQ-9s and HH-60G will complement F-16s, C-130J, EC-130H and other aircraft supporting these operations from Bagram Airfield.

These increased assets will assist with the ongoing ANDSF strategic air campaign that targets Taliban revenue sources of which are aimed at aggressively taking the fight to the Taliban.

 “The Taliban still has not felt the full brunt of American and Afghan air power,” said US. Air Force Major General James Hecker, commander of 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan and NATOinfo-icon Air Command-Afghanistan.

“With the arrival of new air assets and the growing capabilities of Afghan pilots, the Talban will have a constant eye towards the sky as an integrated unified fight is aimed directly to them.”

The statement said “in a matter of days” A-10s will conduct their first strike against the Taliban, continuing the air campaign destroying narcotics production facility.

Since November, 30 strikes conducted against Taliban narcotics production facilities resulted more than $20 million in total impact on Taliban revenue, the release read.

“Under the authorities granted in the South Asia Policy, precision strikes with A-10s will hit the Taliban where they are most vulnerable: their revenue streams and profits from developing and selling illegal narcotics.”

Now the Taliban will face a more aggressive adversary in this air campaign as US Air Force F-22s, F-16s, B-52s, A-10s and MQ-9s, along with support from Navy F-18s, will join in counter-finance operations.

 “The A-10 provides planners even more options given its ability to deliver a wide variety of precision munitions and devastating firepower from its 30mm cannon,” said US Air Force Brigadier General Lance Bunch, chief, Future Operations, CJ35.

”In the coming weeks, the A-10’s operations will be integrated into our combined US and Afghan air campaign to deliver destructive precision firepower that sends a strong impactful message to the Taliban.”     

The Afghan Air Force (AAF) additionally will more than double their fleet of aircraft over the next seven years.

Plans include the introduction of AC-208 attack aircraft and UH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters, as well as additional A-29 attack aircraft and MD-530 attack helicopters.

In the past year, the AAF effectively incorporated A-29 ground attack aircraft, C-208 and C-130 mobility aircraft, MD-530, and Mi-17 helicopters into daily operations, aided by Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators positioned in Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to successfully integrate operations that enable battlefield successes.

“The growing Afghan Air Force is vital to the success of ANDSF on the battlefield,” said Major General Mohammad Shoaib, commander, AAF.

“Dedicated pilots and crews provide resupply, close air attack, casualty evacuation, and air assault capabilities to their brothers on the ground.”

He said the success of the Air Force was key to tipping the battlefield in favour of ANDSF. “The Afghan Air Force is successfully fighting and growing at the same time increasing attack capabilities while delivering daily blows to the Taliban.”

Together with United States airpower the AAF will continue to develop critical warfighting capabilities needed to help them in their task of defeating the Taliban and setting conditions for reconciliation.

pr/ma

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