Spreading Their Wings

Afghanistan’s National Army Air Corps is a small but rapidly growing force that will swell to 7,400 personnel and 112 aircraft at the end of an eight-year rebuilding plan in 2015, Air Force Brig. Gen. Jay Lindell told Pentagon reporters on Jan. 24 via teleconference from Kabul. Lindell, commander of the Combined Air Power Transition Force in Afghanistan, leads 133 personnel tasked with re-equipping of the ANAAC to be a self-sustaining force. He noted that the Air Corps has doubled its capacity since last October and plans to double it again in about six months. The Afghan force is in the early stages of an expansion that will raise the number of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters in its inventory from 22 today to 61 by 2011, he said. Included will be 16 Mi-17 helicopters acquired from the Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates and refurbished with US and NATO funding. The first three arrived in early December 2007, and the last three are due to arrive by the end of March. The ANAAC also will receive four more Antonov An-32 transports, due to arrive by April from the Ukraine, he said. The 1,950-personnel force expects to take over mobility operations to support the Afghan Army. Most of its daily flying hours are currently dedicated to training, Lindell said. Soon, however, the ANAAC also will be conducting medical evacuation flights out of its new Joint Aviation Facility, which was inaugurated earlier this month. In about three months, the Afghans plan to begin mobility and medevac operations out of Kandahar as well, Lindell noted.