The Air National Guard’s newest aircraft can now fly as many missions as necessary on southern Afghanistan’s austere dirt runways thanks to a six-member quick strike team and their three P-19 fire engines. The QST team deployed to Forward Operating Base Apache in Qalat, Afghanistan, to provide crash, fire, and rescue support to the base and nearby FOB Davis. Without the firefighters, the Air Guard’s newest aircraft can only fly four flights in 14 days, said Maj. Jason Helton, air mobility liaison officer for regional command south. “Now … we can land as many planes as we want,” he said. The Air Guard and Army Guard crews that operate the aircraft are assigned to the newly established 702nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron out of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, where they provide direct support to an Army aviation battalion. “The fact that we can now fly supplies in, means less supply convoys my men will have to run,” said Army 1st Sgt. Mark Dasch, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry. “Less convoys mean less causalities. It’s that simple.” (Afghanistan release)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.