Afghan Air Force officials say the number of aircrafts will be increased to 260 in total from 120 at the moment within the upcoming seven years.
U.S. Black Hawks To Replace Russian Helicopters In Afghanistan
Afghan and U.S. officials said efforts are underway to replace Russian MI-35 strike aircrafts with American Black Hawks within the next three months as part of the government’s plans to increase the number of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) aircrafts to 260 from a total of 120 within the upcoming seven years.
Statistics by the Afghan Air Force reveal that there are four MI-35 Russian strike aircrafts and 26 MI-17 lift aircrafts in Afghanistan. Two of the MI-35 Russian helicopters need repairing.
The statistics reveal that Afghanistan has 120 aircrafts in total including 56 strike planes, 60 lift planes and 71 helicopters.
The number, official said, will be increased to 260 in total including 175 strike planes, 89 lift planes and 214 helicopters.
Following Russia’s decision to send its troops to Ukraine in 2015, the U.S. and the European Union agreed on sanctions against Moscow. Since then, the repairing of Russian helicopters has become complex issue for Afghanistan.
Ahead of the sanctions, the Russian helicopters were sent to Ukraine and Czech Republic for repairing.
“The intention is not to keep those MI-35s going; it is to replace that capability with the Black Hawks, they also can perform the mission,” Colonel Sean C. Mclay, a former advisor to Afghan Air Force, told TOLOnews.
Jamshed and Amanullah, two Afghan pilots, who have been trained in the United States, said they have flown MI-35 and MI-17 aircrafts. They added that they will be flying the Black Hawks in the near future.
“We will be prepared for the Black Hawks in six months,” Jamshed said.
“All the pilots, specially MI-17 pilots are prepared to use the Black Hawks. The Black Hawks are not so different from the MI-17s,” said Amanullah.
Afghan Air Force engineers said MI-35 aircrafts have not been repaired basically in Afghanistan, therefore, he said the Russian helicopters require serious checkup and repairing after every 2,000 hours of flight.
“These two helicopters which are here (at the Afghan Air Force camp) for repairing, are not too old. They will be sent abroad for basic repairing,” said Mohammad Saber, an aircraft engineer.
The engineers said Russian helicopters’ parts are rarely available in markets.
“Sometimes we have to use from old aircrafts’ spare parts to repair the (Russian) helicopters,” said Ahmad Shah Hotak, commander of Afghan Air Force Repairing Battalion.