By Capt. Eydie Sakura, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing
KABUL, Afghanistan (AFNS) — The U.S. Air Force delivered four A-29 Super Tucanos to the Afghan Air Force Jan. 15 at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan.
Eight combat-ready attack pilots and a handful of maintainers graduated Dec. 17, 2015, and have returned to Afghanistan after a year of training with the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The pilots are the first of 30 who will be trained by the 81st FS in the next three years.
The U.S. Air Force had no qualified A-29 pilots or maintainers prior to the start of the program, and stood up the 81st FS. These Airmen have been responsible for developing all the tactics and ways to instruct the students.
“The A-29 program has been an integral part of the U.S. government’s overall ‘Building Partnership Capacity’ efforts around the world and immediately supports the development of an indigenous air force in Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Craige, the commanding general at Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air.
“This rapidly developed program for Afghanistan is unique for the A-29 development because this is the first time (U.S. Air Force) pilots and maintainers have been trained as instructors to conduct training for Afghan students in the United States.”
The 81st FS instructors will be deployed to TAAC-Air where they’ll advise their counterparts on continued development of close air support, aerial escort, armed overwatch and aerial interdiction in the coming months.
Designed to operate in high temperatures and in extremely rugged terrain, the A-29 is highly maneuverable fourth-generation weapons system capable of delivering precision-guided munitions.
“It can fly at low speeds and low altitudes, is easy to fly, and provides exceptionally accurate weapons delivery,” Craige said. “It is currently in service with 10 different air forces around the world.”
The A-29 program was designed to help Afghan pilots gain an advantage by providing close air support to friendly forces engaged in combat on the ground. Training pilots on the A-29 in the U.S. provides them an opportunity to learn how to employ this weapon system and defend Afghanistan from insurgents, he said.
“This is a fighting aircraft which will destroy the centers of enemies in the country,” said Col. Bahadur, the Afghan Air Force public affairs officer, through an interpreter. “This aircraft has the ability of transferring weapons like rockets and machine guns. This fighting aircraft will provide security and combat support from the ground units in ground operation.”
Security cooperation provides a means for the Air Force to help international partners build airpower capabilities and fill operational needs, increase access, shorten response time and affect the strategic calculus of potential adversaries.
Through sustained security cooperation activities, the Air Force works to build a network of global partners who have the capacity and capabilities to respond to contingencies effectively and efficiently.
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