On February 29, 2020, in the capital of Qatar, a peace agreement was signed between the United States and the Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation). The key provisions of this agreement are the following points:
- The US must refrain from using force;
- The Taliban are obliged to lay down their arms and stop terrorist and military activities;
- The withdrawal of US troops and their NATO allies from Afghanistan will begin within 14 months after the signing of the document (subject to the terms of the treaty by the Taliban);
- The Afghan government should begin negotiations with the UN Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list by May 29, Washington intends to exclude the group from its list of sanctions by August 27;
- The US will reduce troops in Afghanistan to 8, 6 thousand within 135 days, depending on the fulfillment by the "Taliban" of their obligations under the agreement. In return, the Taliban should abandon the use of Afghan territory for attack;
- The United States of America undertakes not to interfere in the internal politics of the country;
- Annually, the US will provide funds for training, consulting and equipping the Afghan security forces;
- The Afghan government will release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a sign of goodwill in exchange for 1,000 security personnel held by the Taliban.
The ultimate goal of the agreement between the conflicting parties is the subsequent integration of the Taliban into the political life of Afghanistan. However, this provided for the Taliban leaders to revise their key ideological approaches and attitudes, for which, as subsequent events showed, they were not ready.
On the contrary, instead of complying with the terms of the treaty in May 2021 in connection with the withdrawal of foreign military contingent from Afghanistan, the Taliban militants launched a large-scale offensive across the country. By mid-July, the Islamists managed to establish control over 80% of the territory of Afghanistan. These are mainly rural areas, large cities and military bases are still mainly under the control of the central government, which, using armored vehicles, artillery and aircraft, is trying to restore the situation.
In turn, the United States, in parallel with the withdrawal of troops, provides air support to the Afghan security forces. The air strikes were carried out at the request of the Afghan government forces, as well as to destroy heavy weapons and equipment that fell into the hands of the Taliban.
Thanks to American air support in a number of areas, it was possible to stop the militants' offensive, or even push them back to their former positions. Thus, the situation that developed after the withdrawal of the Soviet "limited contingent" in 1989 is largely repeated. Until a certain moment, the government of the Republic of Afghanistan, thanks to large-scale Soviet military and economic support, managed to restrain the onslaught of the Mujahideen and maintain control over the situation in the country. However, after the collapse of the USSR, military assistance completely stopped, and in the spring of 1992 the government of the Republic of Afghanistan fell.
There is reason to believe that the United States will try to prevent the fall of Kabul, and by the end of the year a precarious balance will be established in Afghanistan, when neither side will be able to achieve an unconditional military victory. Thanks to the qualitative superiority in armaments, material and air support of the United States and its allies, the central government will be able to hold large administrative and political centers and control traffic along the main transport arteries during daylight hours. The Taliban will be in control of the countryside and roads at night.
However, there can be no talk of the unconditional establishment of control over the road network by the militants at night. In addition to the stationary well-fortified checkpoints of the Afghan army, reinforced with armored vehicles, unmanned and manned combat and reconnaissance aircraft will operate against the Taliban.
It is clear that without American support, the Afghan security forces will not be able to hold out for long, but the Afghan Air Force, created thanks to the efforts of the United States, must play a significant role in deterring Islamic militants.
$ 7 billion is spent annually on the maintenance of the Afghan security forces, which significantly exceeds the capabilities of the Afghan economy. At the same time, the country's GDP is no more than 25 billion. In the current situation, the United States is forced to allocate significant financial resources intended for the purchase of equipment and weapons for the Afghan security forces, training of personnel and provision of material and technical supplies.
Helicopters of Soviet and Russian production in the National Air Corps of Afghanistan
Soon after the US and its allies launched Operation Enduring Freedom (October 2001), it became clear that the foreign contingent would not be able to control the situation in the long term. The Americans spent about $ 600 billion on the fight against the Taliban, but they did not manage to unconditionally defeat the radical Islamists. In July 2011, the gradual withdrawal of the international coalition troops from Afghanistan began. Two years later, ensuring security in the country was formally entrusted to the local power structures, after which the foreign military contingent began to play a supporting role. But it was clear to everyone that the government in Kabul could not do without foreign military and financial support. The main sponsor of the Afghan security forces all this time was the United States.
One of the main instruments of armed struggle against Islamic militants at the disposal of the central government is the Afghan National Air Corps (Air Force).
At the first stage of the anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan, a stake was made on aircraft that are well known to Afghans. Relying on American technical and financial support, the Northern Alliance forces managed to return to service several Soviet-made helicopters hijacked to Pakistan. Some more Mi-25 / Mi-35 and Mi-8 / Mi-17 were supplied by Russia, and transferred by the Eastern European countries to NATO.
Until a certain point, Soviet and Russian-made helicopters were the main striking force of the National Air Corps. Pilots of Afghan combat helicopters mainly used 57-80-mm NAR S-5 and S-8. Small arms and cannon weapons were used extremely rarely against militants, since this implied rapprochement with a target at a distance, when there was a high probability of being hit by return fire from small arms.
The military transport Mi-8 and Mi-17 transported cargo and personnel of the Afghan security forces, but NAR blocks and bombs were often hung on them, and the presence of a 7.62-mm PK machine gun in the doorway was mandatory.
Along with the operation of used Soviet-built aircraft, the United States, as part of a campaign to combat global terror, purchased new helicopters from Russia. So, as of 2013, our country delivered 63 Mi-17V-5 helicopters (export version of the Mi-8MTV-5), as well as consumables and spare parts with a total value of about $ 1 billion. After 2014, the Americans stopped purchasing equipment for the Afghan army and weapons in Russia. Nevertheless, several more used Mi-17s came from Eastern Europe. The Afghan government, faced with a shortage of spare parts and a shortage of combat helicopters, has asked for grants. Russia did not begin to carry out free deliveries to a country whose leadership is controlled by the Americans. India handed over four well-worn Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan in 2018, but this did not have a noticeable effect on the situation.
At the moment, the Afghan Air Force still has flying attack Mi-35s and transport-combat Mi-17s. However, due to the severance of cooperation with Moscow, their technical condition leaves much to be desired, and they are more idle on the ground. If the situation does not change, then in the near future the Afghan military will have to finally part with Russian aircraft.
Objectives of the program to replace Russian-made helicopters in the Afghan Air Corps
Even before the introduction of sanctions against Russia, the United States began implementing a program to replace Russian helicopters in Afghanistan with aircraft that meet NATO standards. The main goals of this program were to reduce Russia's influence on the situation in the region, to reduce financial costs for the purchase and maintenance of aircraft, to optimize the time for preparing for repeated combat missions and to make them more effective.
From the beginning, the US military had clear priorities. When choosing equipment for the Afghan Air Force, it was only about the implementation of bomb and assault strikes, the airlift of small units and cargo transportation in the interests of the ground forces. The acquisition of jet combat aircraft capable of intercepting air defense missions and conducting aerial combat was not considered.
Replacement of Mi-8 / Mi-17 with American-made helicopters
At the first stage, the United States tried to compensate for the shortage of Mi-8 / Mi-17 multipurpose helicopters taken from the long-term storage of Bell UH-1H Iroquois. Although these veterans of the Vietnam War underwent a major overhaul and were equipped with new means of communication, they no longer meet modern requirements, and did not show themselves in the best way in the highlands.
The main alternative to Russian transport and combat helicopters in the long term should be the upgraded Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk, taken from storage.
Helicopters, built in the mid-1980s, underwent major overhaul and modernization, after which they received the designation UH-60A +. During the modernization, General Electric T700-GE-701C engines, improved transmission and an updated control system are installed. It is stated that the capabilities of the UH-60A + correspond to the modern modification of the UH-60L. In total, the United States plans to deliver 159 multipurpose helicopters.
UH-60A + helicopters are equipped with machine guns of 7, 62 mm caliber, and, if necessary, can carry blocks with unguided missiles and containers with six-barreled 12, 7-mm GAU-19 machine gun mounts on external suspensions.
It is fair to say that the Black Hawk Down is a very good helicopter. However, Afghan pilots and ground technicians are not very enthusiastic about the transition to the UH-60A +. This is due to the fact that the Black Hawk Down, with all its merits, is a much more demanding machine to service than the Mi-8 / Mi-17 helicopters mastered by the Afghans, which have proven their high efficiency and unpretentiousness. In addition, the US-supplied transport and combat helicopters are not new, which will inevitably affect operational reliability.
Replacement of the Mi-35 with light reconnaissance and attack helicopters and turboprop attack aircraft
In the past, the main striking force of the Afghan Air Force was Mi-35 helicopters. This machine is an export version of the Mi-24V and is armed with a USPU-24 movable machine gun with a four-barreled 12, 7-mm machine gun YakB-12, 7. The standard combat load of the Afghan Mi-35 was 2-4 B-8V20A blocks with a capacity of twenty 80 -mm S-8 missiles.
Usually Afghan Mi-35s were used as "flying MLRS". Trying not to be exposed to anti-aircraft fire from the ground, the crews carried out a salvo launch of the NAR "over the area" from a distance of at least 1 km.
In 2015, American representatives announced that, due to the high cost and non-obvious efficiency, they were stopping funding for technical support for the Mi-35. Nevertheless, the Afghans did not completely abandon the "crocodiles", but their combat readiness dropped sharply and the intensity of flights dropped dramatically. Currently, the Afghan National Air Corps has no more than eight Mi-35s capable of taking off.
To some extent, the light MD Helicopters MD530F Cayuse Warrior has become a replacement for the Russian attack helicopters, which is a member of a family descending from the single-engine light multipurpose McDonnell Douglas Model 500 helicopter. The Afghan Air Corps has about 30 MD530Fs. In total, the fleet of light combat helicopters is planned to be increased to 68 units.
The helicopters of the MD530F modification, intended for the Afghan Air Force, are equipped with a Rolls-Royce Allison 250-C30 Turboshaft gas turbine engine with a takeoff power of 650 hp. and a propeller with increased lift. This allows it to operate effectively at higher temperatures and in mountainous terrain, surpassing other helicopters in its class. The MD-530F can carry a wide range of weapons, including HMP400 containers with a 12.7 mm MZ machine gun (rate of fire 1100 rds / min, 400 rounds of ammunition), as well as NAR and ATGM launchers. The payload weight on the external sling is up to 970 kg.
The MD530F light combat helicopter became the first in the family to receive a "glass cockpit" that includes the GDU 700P PFD / MFD touchscreen displays and the Garmin GTN 650 NAV / COM / GPS, as well as an integrated tracking system (HDTS) that integrates sighting and search equipment, FLIR night vision equipment and a laser rangefinder-designator.
In addition to striking ground targets, the MD530F is capable of patrolling and reconnaissance, as well as adjusting artillery fire and directing other attack helicopters and aircraft to the target. The presence of a laser rangefinder-designator on board makes it possible to illuminate the target for guided artillery shells and aviation ammunition.
Although the MD530F cannot be compared to the Mi-35 in terms of combat survivability, it is quite effective when used correctly. The key to the invulnerability of this helicopter is its high maneuverability, thrust-to-weight ratio and small geometrical dimensions. Due to its much lower take-off weight, the MD530F is more sensitive to control commands and surpasses the Mi-35 in operational overload. The MD530F is much more difficult to hit than the armored crocodile. In addition, a number of the most vulnerable parts of the MD530F are covered with polymer-ceramic armor, and the fuel tanks are sealed and can withstand hits from 12.7 mm bullets. The main rotor with increased efficiency remains operational when fired by 14.5 mm bullets.
The combat survivability of the MD530F is negatively affected by the presence of one engine, the failure of which will inevitably lead to a fall or an emergency landing. At the same time, it should be recognized that, although the Mi-24 family machines are better protected from small arms fire, large-caliber 12, 7-14, 5-mm bullets pose a huge threat to all helicopters and aircraft available in the National Air Corps without exception. Afghanistan.
An important factor in the adoption of MD530F light combat helicopters was their relatively low price. The Russian Helicopters holding in 2014 offered an export modification of the Mi-35M for $ 10 million, while the cost of one MD530F without weapons is $ 1.4 million. In addition, fuel efficiency is of great importance. Two Mi-35 engines consume an average of 770 liters of fuel per hour. The gas turbine engine installed on the MD530F consumes 90 liters per hour. Taking into account the fact that aviation fuel is delivered to Afghan air bases by military transport planes or road convoys, for which it is necessary to provide strong guards, this significantly affects the intensity of the use of combat aviation and the cost of a flight hour.
The leadership of the American defense department categorically objected to the supply of not only modern AH-64E Apache Guardian combat helicopters to Afghanistan, but also the relatively simple AH-1Z Viper. This is mainly due to fears that the attack helicopters used in the US armed forces may be at the disposal of Chinese or Russian specialists. Also, great doubts were caused by the ability of the Afghans to independently maintain very complex and time-consuming combat helicopters in working order. In addition, it was highly desirable to reduce the cost of a flight hour and the preparation time for a repeated combat mission.
According to the plan of the American military, the Embraer A-29B Super Tucano turboprop attack aircraft, which won the competition for a light combat aircraft in 2011, should become a full-fledged replacement for the Mi-35. The rival of the American-Brazilian turboprop attack aircraft was the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II. The victory in the competition was facilitated by the fact that Embraer, together with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), began assembling the Super Tucano in the United States.
As of 2016, the cost of one Super Tucano was $ 16 million. The price of one A-29B aircraft assembled at the Jacksonville plant in Florida in 2019 is more than $ 18 million. compared with the Brazilian "Super Tucano", mainly associated with the installation of more advanced American-made avionics.
The Super Tucano, which has been in service since 2004, is also chosen because it has performed very well in counterinsurgency operations conducted by the governments of Brazil and Colombia. This armed turboprop aircraft has been successful in intercepting light passenger transport aircraft carrying illegal cargo.
To date, two hundred Super Tucanos used in the war zone have flown over 24,000 hours. Due to their high maneuverability, low thermal signature and good survivability, the aircraft have proven themselves in the course of combat missions. Although there were flight accidents, not a single turboprop attack aircraft was lost to anti-aircraft fire.
All expenses associated with the purchase of aircraft, their delivery to Afghanistan, the purchase of weapons, spare parts and consumables for them, as well as the training of pilots and mechanics, were borne by the United States. Afghan flight and technical personnel were trained by instructors from the US Air Force 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
Compared to the single-seat modification A-29A, the two-seat A-29B aircraft used by the Afghan Air Force are equipped with much more advanced avionics. Due to the presence of a second crew member, performing the duties of the weapons operator and observer pilot, this aircraft is optimal for use in operations where armed reconnaissance is carried out and the use of guided weapons is possible.
Thanks to the 1600 hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 A-68C turboprop engine, the Super Tucano has a fairly high flight performance. The maximum speed in level flight is 590 km / h. Cruising speed - 508 km / h. A-29V can stay in the air for more than 8 hours. Ferry flight range - 2500 km. Combat radius with a load of 1500 kg - 550 km. Normal takeoff weight is 2890 kg, and maximum - 3210 kg. The turboprop attack aircraft is capable of operating in high temperature conditions, has good take-off and landing characteristics, which makes it possible to be based on unpaved runways limited in length.
The crew has at their disposal the means of displaying information from the Israeli company Elbit Systems and sighting and search systems manufactured by Boeing Defense, Space & Security. When guided munitions are aimed at the target, the data display system on the pilot's helmet is activated, which is integrated with the control equipment for aviation weapons. It is reported that in 2013 for the A-29B company OrbiSat created a suspended radar capable of working on air and ground targets and detecting single mortar positions with a high probability. There are also inertial and satellite navigation systems and equipment on board that provide a closed radio communication channel.
Combat load, or suspended containers with reconnaissance and search equipment with a total weight of up to 1550 kg are placed on five hardpoints. The A-29B armament includes free-fall and corrected bombs, cluster bombs, NAR, as well as 70-mm HYDRA 70 / APKWS laser-guided rockets. The wing has two 12.7 mm FN Herstal M3P machine guns with a rate of fire of 1100 rds / min. Ammunition - 200 rounds per barrel. There is also a suspension for a 20 mm GIAT M20A1 cannon and four containers with 7, 62-12, 7 mm machine guns.
If necessary, an additional fuel tank with a capacity of 400 liters, which can be sealed and filled with neutral gas, can be installed at the co-pilot's seat.
Due to its design features, the combat survivability of the A-29V is higher than that of most combat helicopters. On a turboprop attack aircraft, unlike a helicopter, there are no many vulnerable nodes, if damaged, a controlled flight is impossible. The visibility of the A-29V in the IR spectrum is significantly lower than that of combat helicopters, and the horizontal flight speed is approximately two times greater, which reduces the time spent in the anti-aircraft fire zone. To counteract heat-guided missiles and jamming radar, there are automatic devices for shooting heat traps and dipole reflectors. It is possible to suspend a container with laser equipment to counter missiles with IR seeker. However, the Taliban now do not have operational MANPADS. For shooting at aerial targets, the militants mainly use small arms, they also have 12, 7 and 14, 5 mm anti-aircraft guns.
Taking into account the existing threats, the cockpit and the most important parts of the Afghan A-29B are covered with polymer armor, which is not penetrated by armor-piercing rifle bullets fired from a distance of 300 m. Fuel tanks are protected from lumbago and are filled with neutral gas. With strong anti-aircraft resistance, the booking of a two-seater cockpit can be reinforced with ceramic plates, which provides protection against 12.7 mm bullets at a distance of 500 m. But in this case, the mass of the combat load is reduced by 200 kg and the flight range is reduced.
The Afghans began mastering the first eight A-29Bs in 2016. In 2020, the Afghan Air Force already had 26 aircraft. It is expected that in the near future the fleet of Afghan "Super Tucano" will exceed 30 units. Afghan A-29B pilots made their first combat missions in early 2017. After the arrival of new aircraft and their development by the crews and ground services, the intensity of combat missions increased. As early as April 2017, Super Tucano flew up to 40 sorties a week.
According to the recommendations issued by American advisers, Afghan pilots avoided entering the effective anti-aircraft fire zone by launching rockets and dropping bombs from a safe height. Wing 12.7 mm machine guns were not used against the Taliban.
To improve the effectiveness of combat missions, in March 2018, GBU-58 Paveway II corrected bombs began to be suspended on the Afghan Super Tucano. This not only dramatically improved the accuracy of bombing, but also made it possible to destroy stationary targets with known coordinates at night.
In general, the Super Tucano performed very well during the hostilities in Afghanistan, and, according to Western experts, were able to compensate for the decommissioning of the Mi-35 helicopters. Although the price of the A-29V is slightly higher than that of the exported Mi-35, turboprop attack aircraft compensate for it with much lower operating costs. The cost of a flight hour for Afghan A-29Bs in 2016 was approximately $ 600. At the same time, the cost of a flight hour of the Mi-17V-5 transport and combat helicopter exceeded $ 1000, while for the Mi-35 it was close to $ 2000. The time it takes to prepare a helicopter for a second combat mission is much longer than that of the Super Tucano. With a similar or even higher combat effectiveness, light turboprop combat aircraft in Afghanistan turned out to be economically more profitable.
The great advantage of the A-29V is its ability to operate successfully in the dark, which is extremely problematic for the Afghan Mi-17V-5 and Mi-35. Unlike combat helicopters, a turboprop aircraft easily overcomes mountain ranges, while carrying a maximum combat load.
Transport-passenger and reconnaissance-strike aircraft of the National Air Corps of Afghanistan
Before the fall of Mohammad Najibullah's regime, the Afghan Air Force operated passenger transport aircraft: An-2, Il-14, An-26, An-32. After the Taliban fighters left Kabul without a fight in November 2001, all the aircraft received from the USSR were in a state of scrap metal, and the western coalition had to rebuild the Afghan military transport aircraft.
At the end of 2009, two medium military transport C-27A Spartans were transferred to the newly formed Afghan Air Force. "Spartan", which uses the nodes of the American C-130, was created by Alenia Aeronautica on the basis of the Italian G.222 aircraft.
Alenia North America has been awarded a $ 485 million contract for the modernization and refurbishment of 18 C-27A. The Afghan aircraft are equipped with ballistic protection of the cockpit, a device for shooting heat traps and additional equipment for operations from poorly prepared airfields. The fuel tanks are filled with neutral gas.
The S-27A with a maximum takeoff weight of 31,800 kg has a payload of up to 11,600 kg. Capacity: 60 passengers or 46 armed paratroopers. Flight range with a payload of 4535 kg - 5110 km. Service ceiling - 9140 m. Maximum speed - 602 km / h. Cruising - 583 km / h.
A total of 16 "Spartans" were delivered to Afghanistan. However, in January 2013, the United States decided not to allocate funds to maintain the C-27A fleet in working order. This is reported to be associated with excessive operating costs. According to some sources, as of 2020, the National Air Corps had four C-27As in working order, according to other sources, all Afghan Spartans were decommissioned.
Since 2013, four used American C-130H Hercules have been used to carry out transport and passenger traffic in the interests of the armed forces of Afghanistan.
In May 2008, the United States purchased four Ukrainian An-32Bs, previously in service, for the Afghan Air Force. Apparently, the An-32B have already been written off due to the depletion of the resource.
Due to the fact that the service of the C-27A aircraft in Afghanistan did not work out, it was not possible to implement the plans to equip the Afghan Air Force with AC-27J Stinger II "gunships". In 2008, the Special Operations Command allocated $ 32 million for this purpose. In the period from 2011 to 2015, it was planned to purchase 16 AC-27Js. The aircraft was supposed to be armed with a 30 or 40 mm cannon installed in the doorway, as well as high-precision aviation ammunition.
In 2008, the C-27A taken from storage arrived at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where it was supposed to be refitted at the US Air Force Research Laboratory. However, at the beginning of 2010, the work was stopped.
In July 2012, the Italian company Alenia Aermacchi and the American company ATK announced their intention to create a multi-purpose MC-27J aircraft on the basis of the military transport C-27J. Depending on the mission, this machine, as part of anti-insurgency operations, can provide fire support to ground units, conduct reconnaissance and patrolling, transport cargo and personnel.
In 2014, the first MC-27J began testing. The basis of the sighting and reconnaissance complex was the L-3 Wescam MX-15Di platform with optoelectronic and infrared equipment. Information exchange with ground command posts is carried out via the Link-16 communication line.
As part of the concept of creating an inexpensive multipurpose aircraft with quick-detachable armament, the aircraft was equipped with a 30-mm GAU-23 automatic cannon (aircraft modification ATK Mk. 44 Bushmaster).
A cannon with an ammunition supply system is placed on a standard cargo pallet and mounted in the cargo compartment for firing through the cargo door. Mounting or dismantling the gun should take no more than four hours. In addition to the 30-mm gun mount, it is planned to introduce AGM-176 Griffin and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles into the MC-27J armament.
In 2017, the MC-27J aircraft was offered to the Special Operations Forces Command, which is actually responsible for equipping the Afghan Air Force with aviation equipment. However, the decision on the supply of MC-27J has not yet been made.
Six general-purpose aircraft Cessna 208 Caravan are used to deliver small cargo, including to unpaved runways.
This aircraft, due to its unpretentiousness, low operating costs and the ability to operate from unprepared sites, is popular in third world countries. In the United States Air Force, it is known as the U-27A.
Aircraft with one 675 hp turboprop engine. has a maximum takeoff weight of 3629 kg, and can carry 9 passengers at a cruising speed of 344 km / h. The maximum speed is 352 km / h. Flight range - 1980 km.
The first Cessna 208 appeared in the Afghan Air Force in 2011. According to reference data, the National Air Corps also operates 10 reconnaissance and strike AC-208 Combat Caravan - with sighting and search equipment and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. However, it was not possible to confirm the presence of these aircraft in Afghanistan; the network only contains photographs of unarmed Afghan aircraft. Perhaps we are talking about a modification of the MC-208 Guardian Caravan, used by the American special operations forces.
The Afghan Air Force also has Pilatus PC-12NG turboprop business jets. The aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 4740 kg is equipped with a 1200 hp turboprop engine. The maximum flight speed is 540 km / h. Cruising speed - 502 km / h. The flight range with one passenger on board is 3530 km. Range with one pilot and 10 passengers - 2371 km.
It is known that in 2012 the American company Sierra Nevada received a contract worth $ 220 million for the refurbishment of 18 PC-12NG aircraft purchased in Switzerland. Aviation experts believe the Afghan PC-12NGs should be retrofitted into surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
Since 2006, three US Air Force MTR squadrons have operated U-28A Draco aircraft (military version PC-12NG). Modification U-28A HB-FOB - designed for optoelectronic reconnaissance and patrolling at any time of the day. U-28A HB-FOG - designed to determine coordinates and intercept messages in the radio range from 30 MHz to 2 GHz. Reconnaissance aircraft U-28A HB-FOG and U-28A HB-FOB visually differ from passenger aircraft with wired windows, antennas for communication and radio systems, additional containers in the lower part of the fuselage and sensors of the optoelectronic system.
There is reason to believe that the Americans are trying to compensate for the absence of reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles in the Afghan Air Force with special aircraft based on the PC-12NG.
State and prospects of the National Air Corps of Afghanistan
In general, the National Air Corps of Afghanistan is equipped with sufficiently modern aviation technology, and in terms of its size it is quite consistent with the size of the country. According to Western data, the combat readiness of Afghan aircraft and helicopters averages about 70% of the total. Most of the pilots now flying Western aircraft have been trained outside of Afghanistan. Ground technical personnel were mainly trained on-site by foreign military instructors and civilian contractors.
In general, the level of training of the Afghan flight and technical personnel is assessed as good. However, even with the necessary qualifications, the pilots of the Afghan Air Force do not always have a sufficient level of motivation and are sometimes overly cautious. Cases of formal fulfillment of a flight mission have been repeatedly noted. When there was a risk to run into anti-aircraft fire from the ground, Afghan pilots did not drop bombs aimingly, but the NAR was launched from the maximum distance. Technical ground personnel involved in the preparation of aircraft and helicopters for departures, as well as in their repair, requires close supervision by foreign specialists. Otherwise, Afghans can deviate from the requirements of instructions, perform repairs and routine maintenance negligently, which, in turn, is fraught with a high risk of flight accidents.
Taking into account the number, the level of training of personnel and the state of the aircraft fleet, aircraft and helicopters of the Afghan Air Force can perform 50-60 sorties per day. This, of course, is possible provided that there is a sufficient amount of aviation fuel and ammunition at the air bases, as well as with timely maintenance and repairs. The logistics of the Afghan National Air Corps are entirely dependent on US-controlled supplies, and the quality of maintenance is dependent on the presence of foreign instructors overseeing the Afghan mechanics. In the light of recent events, against the background of active operations carried out by the Taliban in many regions of the country, the combat power of the Afghan Air Force may not be enough to restrain their offensive impulse.
According to American plans, by 2022, the Afghan Air Force fleet was supposed to be increased to 245 aircraft and helicopters. However, there are great doubts that this will be implemented. One way or another, if the United States is interested in preserving the current government in Kabul, it will have to allocate very large resources to maintain its viability. A number of military experts believe that the pro-American regime in Afghanistan will not hold out without direct large-scale participation in the hostilities of the US military aviation, which the Joseph Biden administration is trying to avoid.