News: Afghan Air Force receives “Hercules” of an aircraft
Story by Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe
KABUL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Afghanistan – The Afghan air force became the 70th country to own and operate C-130 aircraft, during an arrival ceremony Oct. 9 at Kabul International Airport Afghanistan.
Two C-130H models were delivered to the AAF from the United States, in order to continue the growth and increase the sustainability and autonomy of the AAF, as well as expand airlift capabilities.
The ceremony featured speakers from both Afghan and U.S. leadership, including Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, AAF commander and Ambassador James B. Cunningham, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.
“I promise to my leadership and the U.S. leadership that we will maintain these airplanes, keeping them safe and operational,” stated Wahab to a crowd of more than 250 AAF and Coalition service members.
With the addition of the C-130 to the inventory, the AAF now has six different aircraft, which offer a wide variety of capabilities. The inventory includes the MD-530 helicopter and the Cessna 182 for training purposes, the Cessna 208 and Mi-17 helicopter for operations such as transportation and casualty evacuation, and the Mi-35 attack helicopter for combat operations.
“My country will keep their support,” Cunningham said. “This is not our first or our last support to the Afghan Air Force.”
Following the formal ceremony, the attendees witnessed a low-level flyover by one of the new aircraft, after which it taxied through a water arch provided by two AAF fire trucks. The culmination of this air demonstration came when 1st Lt. Khial Shinwari, one of the first two AAF C-130 pilots, opened the hatch and waved the Afghan flag as the aircraft came to a stop.
"The Afghan Air Force currently plans and flies 90 percent of the sorties flown in support of operations," said Brig. Gen. John Michel, NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan commander. "They are maturing at an exponential rate, and the continuous demonstration of resolve and commitment to grow this Afghan Air Force is inspiring. Today's acceptance ceremony reflects a significant increase in capabilities that almost doubles the ability to provide troop transport, resupply and CASEVAC operations."
Two Afghan pilots have already completed C-130 training in the United States, with additional pilots in the pipeline and flight engineers and loadmasters scheduled to begin training shortly. Additional crew members and maintenance personnel will begin English language training this fall followed by formal C-130 specific training.
“The first time I saw this big airplane, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fly it,” said Shinwari. “After the professional training I received, I realized it is not that hard to fly. It was my childhood dream to be a pilot.”
The aircraft provides medium airlift capabilities, allowing for better range as well as increased passenger and cargo movement. The C-130H can cross the entirety of Afghanistan without refueling and can carry 10 times the amount of cargo of a Cessna 208.