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  • Afghanistan

    Afghan commandos hone tactical helicopter operaitons

    LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan— Afghan National Army commandos from 8th Special Operations Kandak conducted a tactical training exercise with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) helicopter aircrews in Pul-E-Alam district, Logar province, Jan. 30.

    The training was designed to sharpen skills needed while using Afghan helicopters, to and from the battlefield.

    “This was the first time we have ever [trained] with these ANSF aircrews,” said an 8th SOK platoon leader.

    The commandos conducted the training in two phases. In the first phase, they practiced entering and exiting procedures using stationary helicopters. Additionally, they practiced moving into positions to defend the aircraft during enemy attacks.

    A senior officer assigned to the Afghan National Army Special Forces 8th Special Operations Kandak addresses his troops after a training evolution at the 8th SOK headquarters in Pul-E-Alam district, Logar province, Jan. 30, 2014. The commandos conducted the training to expand the 8th SOK's capabilities and effectiveness when conducting independent operations to improve security in the area

    During the second phase, commandos boarded the helicopters, flew out to a remote location, and performed tactical exiting procedures in a simulated battlefield environment.

    The senior 8th SOK officer, who led the training, said he was pleased with the performance of the 8th SOK members.

    The officer added that he would be meeting with ANSF aviation leadership to discuss future training missions and to share ideas on ways to improve the training exercises.

    “It is important that the commandos push themselves to be better every day,” he said. “We have been fighting alongside coalition forces for 13 years. It is critical that we keep improving our skills so we can continue to defeat the enemies of Afghanistan.”

    The capability and effectiveness of the ANASF has progressed to the point that they now conduct most of their operations independently, improving security. By taking the responsibility for a secure Afghanistan into their own hands, ANASF continue to make progress and retain hard-won gains.

  • #2
    Six US soldiers killed in Afghan helicopter crash

    Six US troops in Afghanistan were killed and one wounded in a helicopter crash Tuesday, but it was unclear if Taliban fire caused any of the casualties after the chopper went down.

    Military officials said insurgents did not shoot down the UH-60 Blackhawk, but they were investigating whether any of the US troops were killed by gunfire from Taliban militants after the crash.

    The Afghan insurgents immediately claimed responsibility for the deaths, using their main Twitter account to report that their fighters had shot down the US chopper in the southern province of Zabul.

    The incident was the single biggest loss of life for the NATO mission in Afghanistan since seven Georgian soldiers died when a suicide bomber blew up a truck loaded with explosives outside a base in Helmand province in June.

    "Six International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members died following an aircraft crash in southern Afghanistan today," an ISAF statement said.
    "The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash."

    Defence officials in Washington told AFP the fatalities were US troops riding in a Blackhawk aircraft.

    "I can confirm six Americans were killed," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    An investigation was underway to determine "the cause of engine failure," the official said.

    Although there was no insurgent fire on the aircraft before the Blackhawk crashed, "once it was down, there was enemy fire," said a US military officer, who asked not to be named.

    The Taliban Twitter account, under the name Abdulqahar Balkhi, said the helicopter was brought down on Tuesday afternoon while flying low over the district of Shah Joy in Zabul.

    "(The) chopper crashed in (a) ball of flame... killing all 8 invaders aboard," the account said.

    The Taliban regularly make unsubstantiated claims of attacks on NATO and Afghan forces and also exaggerate casualty numbers in proven strikes.

    Provincial officials confirmed the incident in Zabul, a restive province bordering on Helmand and neighbouring Pakistan.

    "I can confirm a helicopter crashed in Shah Joy district this afternoon, but we don't have any information about the casualties or the cause of the hard landing," Mohammad Jan Rasolyar, deputy governor of Zabul province, told AFP.

    Local officials said ISAF and Afghan forces rushed to the scene of the crash and were still on patrol around the site when darkness fell.

    Aircraft crashes are fairly frequent in Afghanistan, where the 75,000-strong international mission relies heavily on air transport as it battles the insurgency alongside Afghan forces who now take the lead in most military operations.

    The last fatal helicopter incident for US forces occurred in April, when an Apache chopper went down in eastern Afghanistan, claiming the lives of two American troops.

    Five US troops also died in the southern province of Kandahar in March when their helicopter came down during a heavy rainstorm.
    Before Tuesday's crash, there had been 149 NATO fatalities in Afghanistan this year, 119 of them US soldiers, according to the independent icasualties website.
    The annual total peaked in 2010, when 711 NATO troops died.

    NATO combat operations in Afghanistan are due to end next year, and coalition commanders say the local army and police have made enough progress to provide general security and keep the Taliban at bay.

    There are currently 42,700 US troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led force that is due to withdraw by the end of 2014.

    A small US-led contingent is due to stay in the country pending the signature of a security agreement between Washington and Kabul.


    • #3
      Lynx Down: Southern Afghanistan

      Five Nato troops have been killed after a UK helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

      Officials have not confirmed the nationalities of those on board, but it is believed they are British

      File photo

      The MoD said the crash is under investigation, but said enemy action is not believed to be the cause.

      It is the first fatal accident involving a UK military helicopter in Afghanistan since the conflict began.

      The crash happened near Kandahar air base, in Kandahar province.

      A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We can confirm that a UK helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan today."​


      • #4
        Russia to Deliver 18 Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan by October

        The Russian officials said Thursday that the delivery of 30 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan will be completed by the end of October this year.

        Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Alexander Fomin has said the helicopter gunships Mi-17B-5 will be delivered under a contract with the United States.

        Mi-17 Gunship

        Fomin further added that 12 choppers had already been delivered under the agreement and the remaining choppers will be delivered before October 31, 2014.

        The agreement for the purchase of helicopters for the Afghan security forces was concluded between US and Russian officials in 2013.

        Rosoboronexport and the U.S. government signed the main contract on the delivery of 21 helicopters on May 26, 2011, and set the political course of the two countries towards the settlement of the common international problem related to the situation in Afghanistan. The contract was fulfilled by the middle of 2012.

        Afghanistan has so far received 45 helicopters from Russia under separate contracts.

        Russian-made helicopters have a long history in Afghanistan and is preferred better than the helicopters due to their low prices, durability and simplicity.​


        • #5
          CH-47 Down: Afghanistan

          One American service member was killed late on Wednesday when a coalition helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan, but the cause of the crash was not immediately known, U.S. and NATO officials said on Thursday, just a month after another deadly chopper crash.

          The latest accident happened Wednesday evening when a coalition CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in Afghanistan's southern region, which was the birthplace of the Taliban movement nearly two decades ago. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) declined to provide other details about the crash, including the exact location.

          CH-47 in Afghanistan

          "An International Security Assistance Force service member died as a result of a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan [on] Wednesday. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends affected by this tragic event," the military alliance said in a brief e-mailed statement.

          Though ISAF declined to confirm the nationality of the service member, a US defense official at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. confirmed a US service member had been killed in the crash. Neither the US official nor ISAF could say whether others were injured, what type of helicopter was involved, and what may have been the cause of the crash.

          Wednesday's deadly crash comes just over a month after five British service members were killed when a Westland Lynx Mk.9 helicopter crashed near an airbase in Chaghri village in Takhta Pul district of Kandahar province, also in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed its fighters had shot down the aircraft, but British officials said there was no evidence that enemy action was involved.

          There are currently more than 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including some 32,800 U.S. troops and 5,200 British service members. Most foreign troops are scheduled to leave the war-torn country by the end of the year, but a security deal expected to be signed by Afghanistan's next president will likely keep American troops in the country until the end of 2016.


          • #6
            Remaining Swedish Black Hawks Debobilised

            The last two Swedish HKP 16 Black Hawks have returned to their home base in Linköping, Sweden, following the deployment in Afghanistan. The helicopters were part of a four-ship unit that was engaged in the Swedish Air Element’s medevac alert for the International Security Assistance Force at Camp Marmal.

            The Swedish Black Hawks have been active in Afghanistan since March 2013, when they took over after the Swedish HKP 10B Super Pumas that had been used for medical transport since April 2, 2011.

            HKP16 UH-60M of the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Wing

            A total of 300 people have been working with the Swedish helicopter units in Afghanistan since 2011. The “SAE ISAF UH-60” unit alone, designated ICEPAC, consisted of approximately 40 people at the time, with people coming and going on a regular basis.

            The HKP 16s held their last medevac alert in mid May, and they have now been returned to Sweden in cargo planes. The helicopters are now put on a one-month quarantine before they can get some maintenance and eventually return to national service for the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Wing.


            • #7
              Afghan Presidential Helicopter Blown Up at Kabul Airport

              An Afghan official says that militants have fired two rockets at Kabul airport striking President Hamid Karzai's helicopter as it sat on the tarmac.

              Abdul-Wahab Wardak, the commander of the military airport says that only one of the two rockets exploded in Thursday's attack but that no casualties were reported. He says that the Russian-made military helicopter used to transport Afghan President Hamid Karzai was set on fire.

              Afghan Air Force Mi-17 similar to that used by the President

              The attack on the airport, which is in one of the most heavily guarded areas of the Afghan capital, underscores the resiliency of militants led by the Taliban who are fighting against the Western-backed government.

              Insurgents have stepped-up attacks as part of their annual summer offensive when they take advantage of warmer weather to move more freely in the mountainous country.


              • #8
                What Next For Afghanistan?

                As the coalition prepares to leave Afghanistan, the war-torn country still lacks effective air power to assist the ground forces battling the Taliban. "Clearly the biggest gap in the Afghan Air Force is the ability to deliver fire from the air to the enemy on the ground." US Air Force general John McMullen said.

                The draw down of coalition forces continues, from the current 40,000 troops to 12.5 by the end of this year. The majority of the remaining force will be US – about 9,800, with the remaining 2,700 include small units from a number of coalition partners.

                The draw down has also reduced the number of combat outposts manned and operated by the coalition from 300 to under 30. By January 1, 2015 the remaining coalition forces will be deployed in a pattern of spoke and hub, focused on three sites in the East of Afghanistan – Jalalabad, Gamberi and Bagram. Coalition forces will also remain in Mazar-e-Sharif in the North of the country, Herat in the West and Kandahar in the South.

                Afghan Air Force Mi-24

                Most of these sites are providing operating bases for Coalition and Afghan air power – unmanned aviation, as well as Afghan helicopters and soon to arrive light close air support fighters. T he Afghan air force and the special mission wing, that support the Afghan special operating forces. 84 Mi-17s helicopters are currently providing the mainstay of the Afghan Air Force. According to Campbell, three additional helicopters will complete the fleet of 87 helicopters. “We’ll work very hard on their aviation, on their intelligence, on their sustainment, those things that are very, very hard for any army, especially hard here in Afghanistan.” Campbell said.

                “These Mi-17s have been a force multiplier for the special operating forces.” he added, “for the conventional forces, the army and the police, they’ve been mostly moving forces and then providing resupply; equipped with electro-optical payloads to assist night flying and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions in addition to assault and fire support for special operations… The issues that we work with on the Mi-17 is making sure we continue to keep in the in the pipeline and then work on the maintenance piece.” Campbell added, raising concern about the availability of spare parts and logistics supplies that could be caused by the ban the US Congress imposed on the Russian defense export conglomerate Rosoboronexport.

                Afghan Air Force Mi-8 and Mi-17 medium utility helicopters depart the helicopter landing zone at FOB Lightning/Thunder in Paktiya province

                The Afghan Air Force also operates 11 Mi-35 attack helicopters designed to be the primary close air support asset for the Afghan National Army, when the coalition forces withdraw from the country. However, these helicopters are based on relatively old airframes that will begin to phase out of service by 2016.

                MD530F ‘Little Birds’ will also be converted to armed reconnaissance missions

                Helicopter pilots are trained on 17 light helicopters delivered by the USA since 2012. These ‘Little Birds’ will also be converted to armed reconnaissance missions. Last week the Pentagon has awarded the manufacturer MD Helicopters $44 million contract to develop and provide an armament package for the 17 MD-530F helicopters that were already supplied to the Afghan Air Force. The ‘F’ variant of the MD-530F has been modified to function in the ‘hot and high’ environment of Afghanistan, in that it has a more powerful engine (compared with the MD 500E) and longer main and tail rotor blades. The helicopters were delivered under a support package including up to 54 helicopters, approved in 2011.



                • #9
                  US Department of Defense Renews Civilian Operator's Contracts in Afghanistan

                  The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded contracts valued at around USD40 million for continued contractor rotary-wing airlift in Afghanistan, it was announced on 31 December.

                  Columbia Helicopters and AAR Airlift Group have been awarded contracts valued at USD20.06 million and USD20.39 million respectively for passenger and cargo airlift in Afghanistan through to 30 April 2015.

                  A Boeing Vertol 107 operated by Columbia Helicopters in Afghanistan

                  Both companies have been providing helicopter support throughout Afghanistan for several years, with Columbia Helicopters operating the Boeing Chinook and Boeing-Vertol 107, and AAR Airlift Group the Bell 214ST, Sikorsky S-61, and Sikorsky S-92.

                  Contractor support has been one of the key facets of the war in Afghanistan, with the use of commercially owned and commercially operated (COCO) helicopters for 'behind the lines' logistical work freeing up military helicopters for combat operations.

                  Sikorsky S-61 operated by AAR Airlift Group at a US Army Forward Operating Base in Sharana, Afghanistan

                  Besides Columbia Helicopters and AAR Airlift Group, other COCO helicopter operators in Afghanistan include Vertical de Aviacion, Canadian Commercial Corporation/Canadian Helicopters, Construction Helicopters, and Evergreen Helicopters.

                  That the Department of Defense is renewing its COCO airlift support in theatre through to at least the end of April 2015 shows that, while coalition combat operations may have ceased at the end of 2014, the international community's involvement in Afghanistan looks set to continue for a while yet.


                  • #10
                    Afghan Air Force to add Armed MD 530F to Helicopter Fleet

                    The Afghan air force is to receive approximately 20 armed variants of the MD Helicopters MD530F utility helicopter, an official close to the force has confirmed.

                    It was previously understood that the aircraft on order would be delivered for training, to operate alongside five training variants already in service. However, the aircraft yet to be delivered will now be weaponised for close air support, the official confirmed at the International Military Helicopter conference in London.

                    Deliveries are expected to begin by year-end, and will be completed by the USA under American funding.

                    An armed version of the MD530F is on order with the Afghan Air Force

                    The Afghan air force lost one of its then six-strong fleet when it was destroyed by an improvised explosive device in 2013.

                    12 MD 530Fs appear to be on order – believed to be part of the requirement for the fleet of armed helicopters. An additional number of the type are on option.

                    The air force also operates Mil Mi-17 and Mi-35 rotorcraft. Four of the former are allocated to each of six Afghan national army corps across the country, and are integrated with guns and unguided rockets, according to Maj Gen Abdul Wahab Wardak, commander of the service.

                    The air force is also expecting a delivery of 20 Embraer A29 Super Tucano light support aircraft – currently located at Moody AFB in Georgia, USA – by the end of the year.


                    • #11
                      $1.4bn Cayuse Warrior Contract Awarded to MDHI

                      MDHI announced today that it has been awarded a 5-year, firm-fixed price Contract to provide an estimated quantity of 150 armed MD 530 aircraft and the required production support services, including program management, delivery support, pilot training, and maintenance, to U.S. and Partner Nation Army Aviation Forces in support of U.S. Army foreign military sales (FMS) opportunities.

                      150 MD530 Cayuse Warriors will be deployed in various international assignments beginning with a batch of 30 aircraft for Afghanistan

                      The Contract has an estimated completion date of Sep. 30, 2022 and a potential value of $1,385,497,987. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama is the contracting agency (W58RGZ-17-D-0089).

                      “This Contract is recognition of our ability to rapidly respond to the needs of our military customers,” said Lynn Tilton, Chief Executive Officer for MDHI, “and a testament to the effective, efficient role the MD 530 Armed Scout Attack Helicopters play in the global fight against terror. It is MDHI’s great honor to continue to serve and support the Warfighter."

                      The first Deliveries under the Contract will be thirty (30) new MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters for the Afghan Air Force. Valued at $176.6 million, these first aircraft will be configured with MDHI’s newly certified Block 1 glass cockpit, featuring the Howell Instruments Engine Instrumentation System, Garmin GDU 620 Electronic Flight Instruments, Garmin GTN 650H Communication/Navigation/Global Positioning System (COM/NAV/GPS), and Northern Airborne Technology Cabin Audio System.

                      Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System (MCAS) weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde & Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods.