Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC)
In June 2010, President Hamid Karzai redesignated the Afghan National Army Air Corps as the Afghan Air Force (AAF). The name change did not make the AAF independent from the ANA, but the move affirmed Afghan intent to eventually return the air force to its former independent status.
The Air Corps had flown logistics, transport and rescue flights all along, but has only recently contributed combat support to their forces. During Operation Mountain Lion in the spring of 2006, two Air Corps helicopters flew in support of Task Force Falcon. There were astonished looks when the ANA troops realized that they'd be flown into combat aboard their own helicopters, and a look of pride on the faces of the Afghan aircrews.
ANA Air Corps (ANAAC) capacity and capabilities grew in 2007. They were executing re-supply missions, troop movements and humanitarian assistance operations. The ANA Air Corps increased flight time from 100 hours per month to 140 hours per month; a 40 percent capacity increase. The Air Corps earned recognition and is credited with saving more than 1,200 lives by performing flood relief missions. The relief missions built the ANAAC’s confidence in its own abilities as well as the confidence of the populace in the Air Corps. In December 2007, the ANAAC flew missions for the first time as an integrated part of a CJTF-82 Aviation Task Force aerial formation. These missions were the result of a year-long mentorship between Task Force (TF) Pegasus and the ANAAC. In January 2008, the ANAAC conducted a medical evacuation test of concept that will further build capacity to conduct independent operations. This operation allowed the ANAAC to move patients from Craig Military Hospital at Bagram Airfield to the ANA National Military Hospital in Kabul and proved the ANAAC to be an independent and strong partner for international forces during medical evacuations.
In December 2008 the ANAAC had 34 planes. Back in 2007 there were only 13. The ANAAC in 2008 consisted of the following aircraft: seven medium cargo airplanes (five AN-32s and two AN-26s) and thirteen helicopters (nine MI-17s and four MI-35s). The ANAAC will eventually include reconnaissance and light attack air-to-ground fixed wing aircraft. By December 2008, the inventory will include an additional fifteen MI-17s, six MI-35s, and two AN-32s. Four out of a total of twenty C-27s are being procured for delivery.
In summer 2008, the GIRoA sought an international agreement to further increase the ANA. On September 10th 2008, the international community’s Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) approved the increase. This structure will include a more robust Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) and fill capability gaps, enabling the GIRoA to better fulfill its mandate to provide for the security of its people.
With more than 300 pilots of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, the corps has contributed to the fight, setting records this summer with more than 220,000 pounds of cargo and nearly 10,000 personnel transported, officials said. In the next seven years, Combined Air Power Transition Force officials plan to strengthen the air corps from 2,000 personnel to more than 7,000, teaching and training them to counter insurgencies and putting the Afghans in the lead.
By 2009 the Afghan National Army Air Corps was a vital and rapidly growing component of Afghanistan’s security forces and is building air power to deny terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s vast and forbidding terrain, the threat posed by roadside bombs and the country’s nearly total lack of rail transportation make air power essential.
After an absence of nearly a decade, the Afghan Mi-35 is again flying the skies of Afghanistan, thanks to pilots from the Afghan National Army Air Corps and the Czech Republic. In early April 2010, the Afghan National Army (ANA) finalized their Personnel Information Management System (PIMS) fielding at the Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) which standardized and digitized approximately 3,000 Air Corps military personnel records. The ANAAC served as a test bed for the implementation of a human resource computer database at the Corps level. With the PIMS implementation, it will allow Ministry of Defense (MoD) and commanders to accurately know who is in their formation as well as more efficiently process the personnel actions such as leaves, awards, evaluations, AWOLs, and promotion boards.
The Afghan National Army Air Corps flew two Mi-17 transport helicopters to the Pol-e-charki prison in Eastern Kabul on May 4th, 2010, to conduct joint training with the Afghan National Detention Facility. The ANAAC air crews taught the Afghan National Army Military Police Guard Battalion about the Mi-17's capabilities and limits, while the ANA Guard Battalion taught the ANAAC air crews about the detainee transfer mission from Bagram to the ANDF. Normally, the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne provide the Chinook helicopters to ferry detainees during the monthly mission, but the ANAAC and the ANA are working together to become self-sufficient.
The Combined Air Power Transition Force (CAPTF) Partnership worked with the Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC). The Combined Air Power Transition Force had a mission to set the conditions for a professional, fully independent and operationally capable Afghan air force that meets the security requirements of Afghanistan today and tomorrow. Furthermore, the Afghan National Army Air Corps provided trained and ready airmen and soliders to execute critical tasks from the air in support of the Afghan National Army, and when directed by the Ministry of Defense, to support by air the civil authorities of Afghanistan at all levels.
CAPTF air advisors had oversight responsibilities for both the Ministry of Defense Afghan National Army Air Corps and the Ministry of Interior aviation assets used for Counternarcotics and General Support. In short, their goal was to ensure that the Afghan people will be able to protect their own airspace. As an embedded partnership, CAPTF operates along four lines of operation to accomplish their mission. The first line of operation is build the Afghan Air Corps aircraft capacity. Second, CAPTF works to build Afghan airmen's capacity and capability. The third step is to build ANAAC's infrastructure to support their force, and fourth, to perform operations in the current counterinsurgency effort.
The ANAAC's Air Corps headquarters was in Kabul and they had two Air Wings, one at Kabul and one at Kandahar. A third was being built at Shindand airfield out to the west that will also be the home of their Training Center where the CAPTF will partner with them initially to train their pilots. The Afghans also have Air Detachments at critical locations around the country to support the Afghan ground forces.
As of 2010 the Afghan National Army Air Corps had 46 aircraft and close to 3,000 personnel building to about 150 aircraft and over 8,000 personnel by 2016. Their mission sets include Presidential and other types of airlift, battlefield mobility, to include medical evacuation and casualty evacuation, and close air support. The primary airframes flown by the Air Corps are Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters and C-27s, which is the first modern western aircraft introduced to the Afghans. CAPTF hopes to introduce additional aircraft into the Afghan inventory as they continue to grow in capability.
Decades of war had stressed the capability of Afghanistan to produce adequately trained military personnel to fly demanding COIN missions. The Soviets trained many ANAAC pilots during the occupation era. The average age of the ANAAC pilot is nearly forty-five years,92 not an encouraging statistic given the forty-five year average life expectancy. Recruitment and training of younger aviators is underway. There is a tension between the older, Soviet trained pilots and the need to recruit and train younger, more flexible pilots to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
By 2010 the efforts to establish a viable ANAAC were behind the timeline of Afghan National Army efforts to secure Afghanistan. There was much in the works to correct the shortcomings of the ANAAC and enable an effective airpower COIN contribution.
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