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AAF Personnel

During the final quarter of 2010, NATO Air Training Command - Afghanistan (NATC-A) completed the initial stage of the AAF's Personnel Asset Inventory (PAI). The second stage was to run from February to April 2011. This effort had 3 purposes. First, the PAI established a true quantitative baseline for AAF personnel strength. Each AAF member provided personal data integral to identifying and calculating the AAF's total force and technical proficiency levels. Second, the PAI collected biometric data from each airman, allowing the Ministry of Interior (MoI) criminal investigation division to cross-reference the national databases to identify airmen with criminal histories. Finally, the PAI gathered electronic funds transfer (EFT) information from each airman.

NATC-A then incorporates the EFT data and the remaining PAI information into the Afghan Personnel Information Management System (PIMS). Using this financial information, officials could identify and correct AAF pay irregularities and the "shadow" accounts sometimes used to collect these payments. In sum, the PAI supported efforts to build a transparent, professional, and sustainable AAF.

Assembling an experienced, professional AAF, including an instructor cadre that could provide pilot and technical training, was the focus of NTM-A/CSTC-A's "Airmen Build" line of operation. By the end of March 2011, AAF manning was expected to reach 4,728 Airmen, an increase of 630 airmen over the December 2010 strength. The Afghans and NTM-A/CSTC-A continued to research opportunities to bolster both the AAF NCO and Officer Corps in an effort to develop the force in both quantity and quality as it grows to the proposed 2011 end strength of 8,017 personnel (expected to be reached by March 2012). Attrition at the time stood near 1.4 percent per month, which was an acceptable level to maintain professional and technical skills. Factors limiting growth include education levels, English language requirements, and pilot training, which were factors that also limited the AAF's ability to produce personnel who were able to perform the technically advanced specialties required for aircraft maintenance and airfield support.

The AAF airmen build remained underdeveloped as of early 2011. The overall strength of the AAF was 5,541 at the end of the reporting period, with 1,577 currently in training. The pilot training program had 55 candidates progressing through the self-paced (normally 18 months) English language training course and 64 progressing through 12-month pilot training courses. New accession pilot candidates were required to possess an 80 English Competency Level score before beginning a formal pilot training course. Future training could be conducted entirely within Afghanistan with the opening of the training center in Shindand, but the March 2012 course was cancelled due to a lack of progression by pilot candidates in the English language course. Shindand is capable of producing 70 pilots per year. There are also Afghan pilots attending courses in the United States, United Arab Emirates, and the Czech Republic.

In November 2011, NTM-A and the AAF conducted a data call to assess the training level of AAF airmen, evaluating 2,800 personnel, or more than half of the force. The assessment revealed that 1,918 of those surveyed were undertrained but remained assigned to units. Combining the data call and subsequent investigations, only 973 personnel were found to be fully trained for their position. NTM-A and the AAF responded with additional training programs, resulting in 557 additional personnel that have now completed training. The existing shortfall in trained airmen was significant; the lack of a sufficient aircrew impeded the growth of the capability and infrastructure for the AAF and undermines the ability to grow the force.

Afghan-instructed basic fixed wing and rotary wing courses started in February 2012. The Afghan air force marked the beginning of its first undergraduate pilot training held exclusively inside Afghanistan in more than 30 years during a ceremony 10 December 2011. More than 200 Afghan and coalition service members attended the ceremony. The first class consisted of seven Afghan air force lieutenants.

The AAF is authorized up to 7,800 personnel as part of its tashkil. In early 2015 its end strength decreased slightly from 6,634 personnel in October 2014, to 6,533 personnel in April 2015. As of April 2015, AAF personnel included 51 women. This included Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing pilot since the Taliban’s rule, who was honored by the Department of State during a visit to the United States in March 2015. TAAC-Air is working with the AAF currently on an advertising program to recruit more Afghan women, but recruitment of women continued to be difficult due to the societal norms of Afghanistan.

Logistical sustainment will make or break the AAF in the long-run. The AAF continues to develop its organic maintenance capability, including conducting aircraft maintenance inspections without coalition assistance. However, as of early 2015 it relied heavily on contracted logistics support for its current fleet and will continue to do so for the near future, particularly to enable integration of new aircraft into the force. Although the capability of current AAF maintenance personnel continued to improve, obtaining the number and skill levels of personnel required to sustain the current and future fleet will remain a challenge.

Additionally, pilot development and availability within the AAF remained a challenge for several reasons. First, pilot training literacy requirements make finding qualified recruits difficult. Additionally, AAF pilot availability is affected by the MoD’s decision to transfer crews from the AAF to the SMW to establish the SMW PC-12 and fill its Mi-17 crews. Finally, highly experienced AAF C-208 pilots were reassigned to enter A-29 training that started in February 2015.

By mid-2015 the AAF had approximately 150 of 291 required fully trained pilots, and approximately 90 of the 198 required aircrews available for operations; this did not include any fully trained pilots in training for another type of aircraft, such as the A-29 or MD-530. The AAF remained in the early stages of building a long-term and sustainable pilot generation process and is forecasted to continue to expand capacity during the remainder of 2015.

The AAF is authorized up to 7,421 personnel as part of its tashkil. During late 2015 AAF end strength held close to 6,700 and monthly attrition remains well below one percent. As of October 20, 2015, AAF personnel included 55 women. There were 161 fully trained pilots in the AAF; this does not include fully trained pilots in training to transition to another aircraft (see Figure 11 for a breakdown of pilots by platform). There are currently no fully trained A-29 pilots; the first class of nine A-29 pilots is in training at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia and is scheduled to graduate in December 2015.

In 2018 NAC-A and TAAC-Air personnel identified several issues with the existing, three-wing AAF structure and advised the AAF to consider a reorganization of the AAF wing structure. The reorganization would be a key step to manage the growth of personnel that will accompany the growth of the fleet over the next several years. The AAF began a process to standardize wing structures, reduce staff redundancies, and empower mid-level officers and enlisted leaders to reorganize the top-heavy rank structure, all while attempting to cut overall costs. AAF growth includes the planned introduction of a new wing in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2019, and 20 squadrons spread throughout the four wings.

Human capital development remains the dominant challenge to AAF modernization success. Recruiting individuals with the requisite education and language skills remains the primary recruiting challenge. English Language skill is the first and most critical enabler for the AAF due to the technical nature of air operations (for aircrews, maintainers, and logistics sustainment). Training pilots and maintenance personnel takes time, and in many instances, the training programs and infrastructure lack the capacity to produce enough trained pilots to keep pace with the new aircraft joining the fleet. Given these challenges, any recruiting shortfall or higher than anticipated trainee attrition rate would limit the AAF’s ability to operate and maintain its growing force.

On November 23, 2017, the Minister of Defense signed a policy allowing the AAF to conduct AAF-specific recruiting separate from the ANA. The policy accounts for the technical nature of AAF flight and maintenance operations and provides for a higher assessment and selection standard for new recruits; it also allows the AAF to recruit regionally. The new policy resulted in positive recruiting results during this reporting period, with AAF recruiters meeting all prescribed recruiting targets. In anticipation of the changes due to the Inherent Law, NAC-A and TAAC-Air advisors identified the next generation of leaders for appointment to senior positions. The advisors anticipate the first wave of planned leadership changes in the next reporting period, and they are working with the MoD and AAF leadership to fill these positions based on merit.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2018 17:36:48 ZULU