Why the Taliban Should Fear the Afghan Air Force

    Dave Majumdar


    The centerpiece of Afghan air power are the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, the MD-530 light attack helicopter and some modified Cessna C208 Caravans—and their fleet is set to expand

    While the war in Afghanistan continues to fester unabated, one of the brighter spots in that ongoing conflict is the Afghan Air Force. The nascent air service is starting to mature and is starting to be able to employ airpower against its Taliban foe effectively using its own aircraft with the guidance of Western advisors.

    “One of the most important things I want to talk about is the Afghan Air Force growth,” Maj. Gen. James ‘Scorch’ Hecker, commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan and NATO Air Command-Afghanistan—also a F-22 Raptor pilot—told reporters at the Pentagon on Feb. 7. “It continues to grow in size and capability. While U.S. air power is destroying Taliban support elements in the deep fight, Afghan A-29s and MD-530 helicopters provide quick, lethal support to Afghan forces in the close fight.”

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    Indeed, the Afghan Air Force dropped the first bombs of a renewed campaign against the Taliban recently. “In fact, an A-29 Afghan aircraft dropped the first bomb of the air campaign on a drug lab and, I might add, shacked the target,” Hecker said.

    The centerpiece of Afghan air power are the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, the MD-530 light attack helicopter and some modified Cessna C208 Caravans—and their fleet is set to expand. “Right now, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29s, but that’s going up to 25, more than double,” Hecker said. “Three A-29 pilots are now trained to drop laser-guided munitions. The first was dropped in training in December, so the Taliban can look forward to those laser-guided bombs raining on what used to be safe havens in the near future.”

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