Refurbishment of 53 Blackhawks for the Afghan troops has commenced: Pentagon

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KABUL: The United States Department of Defense has said the refurbishment work of 53 UH-60 or Blackhawk helicopters for the Afghan security forces has commenced.

According to a new Pentagon report on Afghanistan “Under the ANDSF Road Map, the SMW will also expand to provide additional helicopter crews, consolidate the PC-12 aircraft into a new fixed-wing kandak, and create an aviation support kandak.”

The report further added that Afghan Air Force will have more than double the size of its fleet by 2023 as a result.

“This reporting period, construction began on the first two of six additional A-29s for the AAF, refurbishment commenced on the first 53 of a planned 159 UH-60As, and funding was allocated for AC-208 light-attack aircraft and 30 additional MD-530 helicopters,” the report said.

It also added that the pilot, maintainer, and support personnel changes will be made within the authorized tashkil level of 195,000 for the ANA.

This comes as efforts are underway by the Afghan government and the international allies of Afghanistan to increase the air power of the Afghan security forces.

The commander of the United States Central Command General Joseph L. Votel requested the US Congress to approve the budget for the Afghan forces Blackhawk program.

In his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier in March this year, Gen. Votel informed regarding the significant capability gaps in Afghan Air Force, saying “Going forward, transitioning from Russian to U.S. airframes will ensure Afghan forces have a more sustainable fleet that is interoperable with U.S. forces and will enhance the Afghans’ ability to operate independently of coalition forces. The U.S. government is considering a critical AAF initiative to replace the unsustainable Russian-manufactured aircraft fleet and make up for combat losses in Afghan transport helicopters by providing U.S. UH-60s.”

He said “The DoD-request of $814.5M for FY17 for the first year of our plan to recapitalize the Afghan fleet provides funding to procure 53 UH-60s, with refurbishment and modification of the first 18; 30 additional armed MD-530F helicopters; 6 additional A-29 attack aircraft; and five AC-208s. The requested FY2017 Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) budget, including the 23 additional funds for the first year of this proposed aviation initiative, went to Congress on 10 Nov 2016.”

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