The Afghan Air Force (AAF) flew its first operational mission with its recently acquired Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters on 7 May.
The mission, which was disclosed by the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, saw at least three helicopters fly in support of Afghan provincial elections.
The AAF is set to receive 159 Black Hawks by 2020 as the United States transitions the country’s armed forces over from its approximately 80 Russian-built Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ helicopters that are nearing the end of their service lives. To date, eight have been received over two batches in September 2017 and January 2018, with the first six pilots having graduated from training in November 2017.
Before entering into Afghan service, these former US Army aircraft first undergo a major refurbishment and upgrade. Their standard olive-green finish is also replaced by the AAF’s multi-camouflage pattern.
The transition to the UH-60 is part of a wider ramp-up of the AAF’s capabilities that will take place during the coming months. This plan involves seven different weapon systems, 14 programme offices, and more than 20 major contracts.
In September 2017, one of the first aspects of the plan was disclosed with the announcement that the AAF is to receive a further 30 MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) MD 530F Cayuse Warrior light attack and reconnaissance helicopters to add to the 26 it already operates.
In October 2017 it was revealed that a further six Sierra Nevada Corporation-Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprops are to be delivered to add to the AAF’s existing order of 20. The first two aircraft from this follow-on order were recently delivered to Moody Air Force Base in the US.
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