U.S. Prepares to Help Afghans Train, Sustain Divested Black Hawks
Photo: Defense Dept.
Following the divestiture of more than 150 Black Hawks, the U.S. Army has begun delivering the first batch of used UH-60As to the Afghan Air Force. The service will now help the country train its pilots and sustain the platforms, said an Army official.
The Afghans took ownership of two platforms in September when they were delivered to Kandahar Airfield. The delivery was made possible through a foreign military sale brokered by U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, or USASAC, said Maj. Gen. Stephen Farmen, the command’s commanding general. The organization oversees the foreign military sales of defense platforms, training, education and other services to more than 150 countries. Its portfolio includes more than 5,000 sales worth about $177 billion.
The Army had received a request from Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, to help the Afghans upgrade their aging helicopter fleet of Mi-17s, Farmen said. The Russian-built platforms were becoming too costly to maintain, he added.
“Helicopters are incredibly important for success in Afghanistan,” he said during a breakfast meeting with reporters. “The bottom line is … [this is] a very long-term commitment … to Afghanistan, because we are going to ensure that they do have the right sustainment support.”
There will be contracted logistics support and organic maintenance support, he said.
As for training pilots, the Army will initially coordinate the training but it will later be conducted by a combination of contractors and Army personnel, he said.
“It’s going to be a bit of a hybrid early on,” Farmen said. “It depends on our ability to see if we can provide more forces over there to do that training.”
Overall, the Army plans to deliver 159 aircraft to the Afghans. That process, including training and support, will continue over the next three to five years, he said.
Current Afghan Mi-17 pilots will transition to the Black Hawk, he added. The aircraft will be used operationally, including for missions such as medical evacuation.
According to the Army, Congress has funded the delivery of more than 50 Black Hawks this year. However, the delivery of the remaining 109 platforms will depend on lawmakers approving funding each year.