International

See these Afghan Black Hawks fly their first mission

(Resolute Support Headquarters)

The Afghan Air Force has been making major changes in its inventory lately. Once a user of primarily Russian aircraft, the Afghans are switching to American systems — and they're buying a lot of them.

At present, the Afghan National Air Force is operating four Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters, 40 Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters, 12 A-29 Super Tucanos, 10 UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters, 24 MD530 attack helicopters, and four UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. This is already a varied force, with more on the way.


An Afghan Air Force member inspects a UH-60 Black Hawk as air crews prepare for their first Afghan-led operational mission on this aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)

The Afghan Air Force has 154 MD530s on order along with 155 UH-60As. This gives them a lot of rotary-wing capability for taking on the Taliban and is a level of force the country hasn't seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. What few planes and helicopters remained flyable after Soviet support evaporated with the end of the Cold War were taken out by the United States of America. Rebuilding that lost capability has been a long process.

The UH-60A, the baseline version of the highly versatile H-60 airframe, has a crew of three and can haul 11 troops or up to 8,000 pounds of cargo. It entered service in 1979 and has been used internationally ever since. By comparison, the Mi-8/Mi-17 entered service in 1967, has a crew of three, and can hold 26 passengers or up to 8,800 pounds of cargo.

A graduate from UH-60 Mission Qualification Training proudly holds his certificate of training at a graduation ceremony the day before the Afghan Air Force launched its first operational mission with the UH-60A Blckhawk.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)

One step on that long road to restoring a national force was recently taken when three Afghan Air Force UH-60s took part in a mission to support provincial elections in Afghanistan. The mission took place the day after Mission Qualification Training for the Afghan personnel.

The United States has been fighting the Taliban for almost 17 years, but this mission is a clear sign that the Afghan government is starting to bring more power to the fight.

Watch the Afghan Black Hawks leave for their first mission in the video below.