Afghan Air Corps Returns Mi-35 Helicopters to Flight
American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jun. 29, 2009 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, military officials here said.
Two MI-35 attack helicopters from the Afghan Army Air Corps launch on a gunnery training mission as another ANAAC MI-17 transport lands in the background at Kabul International Airport May 27, 2009. This mission was the first time rockets have been flown by the Afghan Air Corps in more than ten years and will eventually allow the Afghans to provide their own close-air support. U.S Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
On May 27, Afghan Mi-35 attack helicopters fired 12.7 mm rounds and 57 mm rockets near Bagram Air Base. Each partnered Afghan and Czech Republic crew fired 200 rounds of ball ammunition and 16 rockets while practicing gunnery on the East River Range Complex. The practice session was the culmination of more than a year’s work to rebuild the Mi-35 program, which gives the Afghan National Army dedicated, armed aircraft for the first time in eight years.
The seven-hour training was supported by personnel and equipment from the ANAAC, the Czech Republic Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan mentors and personnel from Task Force Thunder at Bagram Air Base. After the completion of the live-fire training, the lead pilot from the Czech team, Major Juracka, commented, “The Afghan shooting was perfect.”
The Czech team began ground training and limited flight training for Afghan Mi-35 crewmembers last summer. In January, Afghan Mi-35 training increased greatly with the arrival of six refurbished helicopters. Since then, the Czech team has completed assessments on nine pilots and added a more aggressive training program.
To date, the Afghan pilots have received training on pre-mission planning, contact maneuvers, emergency procedures, navigation, and presidential escort operations. After the completion of their gunnery tables, the Afghan pilots will receive training on pre-planned and close air support combat missions.
Future Mi-35 initiatives will put even more emphasis on independent Afghan training operations. The Afghan air corps is building its own arming points and is working on an initiative to complete all its Mi-35 live-fire training at Afghan facilities, while the Kabul Military Training Center is developing standardized Mi-35 live-fire training procedures. The air corps also is researching live-fire training locations throughout Afghanistan to better integrate the Mi-35 with the army. All of the efforts are aimed at decreasing the time for an Mi-35 training flight from seven to three hours, effectively doubling the amount of live-fire sorties that can be accomplished in a day.
The Mi-35’s combat radius permits it to conduct combat operations anywhere in the country. The aircraft’s unique design allows it to be used in attack, air assault or medical evacuation roles. It can be configured with a 12.7 mm Gatling type machine gun, 57 mm rocket pods, and the AT-6 Spiral Anti-tank guided missile. The helicopters typically fly with 1,470 rounds of ball ammunition, 128 rockets and two anti-tank missiles.
“The new capability is good for the Afghan National Army and for the country of Afghanistan,” Afghan Maj. Gen. Dawran, the air corps commander, said.
(From a Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan news release.)