Afghanistan is operating Pilatus PC-12 turboprop special mission aircraft it ordered six years ago, the country's Ministry of Defence (MoD) inadvertently confirmed in an unrelated tweet on 6 December.
An image of a PC-12 in national markings was posted on the MoD's official Twitter account in relation to airstrikes conducted in the Uruzgan province of the country. Afghanistan ordered 18 "uniquely modified" PC-12s in 2012, with a further contract for five signals intelligence (SIGINT)-configured aircraft following in 2015. While the contract notifications were posted at the time by the US Department of Defense (DoD), until now there had been no official announcement as to the aircraft having been received into service.
According to Jane's C4ISR & Mission Systems: Air , Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) delivered the first aircraft to Kabul in 2013 under civil registrations. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) had reportedly received 13 aircraft by late March 2015, with at least nine further aircraft understood to have been delivered since then. If correct, Afghanistan has received 22 of the 23 aircraft it ordered.
The US 438th Air Expeditionary Wing that oversees Afghanistan's aviation forces had not responded to a request for clarification and comment by the time of publication, while SNC has previously declined to discuss the Afghan contract.
Jane's understands that the PC-12s are operated by Special Mission Wing squadrons 1, 2, and 3. Of these, 1 and 2 Squadrons are understood to be stationed at Kabul, with 3 Squadron said to operate from Kandahar. It is interesting that this capability resides with the Afghan National Army (ANA) Special Operations Forces (SOF) rather than the Afghan Air Force (AAF), but as the best trained and best funded arm of the ANSF it is probably best placed to take on these sophisticated aircraft at this time.
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