The Pentagon’s Inspector General said this week that U.S. and coalition forces are making progress in training the Afghanistan air force, but that work still needs to be done concerning strategic planning and other logistical and maintenance requirements.
The IG report, released on Thursday, notes that the Afghan Air Force has garnered “notable accomplishments.” Using Embraer-made A-29 Super Tucanos, the Afghans have made progress in aircraft mission performance, night-vision capabilities, and air-ground integration between the air force and the Afghan national army.
The report said, however, that the Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air, or TAAC-Air, mission that develops the Afghan Air Force does not yet have a strategic plan for development of the force into a “professional, capable, and sustainable” military branch.
The report goes on to say that TAAC-Air does not have the ability to track the Afghan Air Force’s progress because they have not “defined the intended end state and related metrics for determining the capabilities and capacities of the Afghan Air Force.”
Additionally, TAAC-Air did not effectively plan with other support agencies, with the inspector general warning that the gap in planning could result in the “inefficient and ineffective use of U.S. and coalition adviser train, advise, and assist efforts.”
Recommendations in the report include improving contract awards and tracking mechanisms for both logistical and maintenance operations in order to aid the progression for eventual turning over to Afghan Air Force maintainers.
Afghanistan plans to acquire more than 100 UH-60 Black Hawks in the coming years to replace their Soviet-era M-17 helicopter fleet.
The first two Black Hawk helicopters joined the fleet of the Afghan Air Force last October, with expectations the UH-60A will replace the aging fleet of Soviet-era helicopters.
The UH-60A Black Hawks were welcomed at an airfield in Kandahar by President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan and U.S. officials.
In September, MD Helicopters received $1.39 billion contract for the procurement of an estimated 150 MD 530F light utility helicopters for the government of Afghanistan, the Department of Defense had announced.
The production and delivery run is expected to run with Aug. 31, 2022.
The Afghan Air Force has struggled to become capable of operating independently, and is still largely equipped with a mix of Soviet-era helicopters.