By Senior Airman Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Since 2013, Airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base have advised and trained Afghan aircrews on C-130 operations.
Two Afghan pilots completed the Afghan Air Force’s first-ever C-130 training flight September 2013 at Little Rock AFB. Approximately a month later, Afghanistan received its first two C-130H aircraft from the United States.
Since then, U.S. and Afghan Airmen have continued to work side-by-side to make significant progress on the Afghan Air Force’s combat airlift capabilities.
Recently, Air Mobility Command Airmen delivered the fourth C-130H to Afghanistan.
“This will be the last projected C-130 delivery to the Afghans,” said Capt. Adam Fletcher, a 52nd Airlift Squadron C-130H pilot and commanding officer of the C-130H delivery operation.
The Afghan armed forces have relied heavily on helicopters for cargo air support over the past years. This fourth C-130H will enable the Afghan forces to have the same capabilities that NATO forces have used to successfully supply military outposts throughout the country.
In 2010, coalition partners recognized that C-130s could provide the Afghan Air Force with increased airlift, resupply and casualty evacuation capabilities, and a plan to supply the Afghan Air Force with a fleet of their own was born. Two aircraft arrived in mid-2013, with a third the following summer. The arrival of the fourth and final C-130 from the United States signifies a program five years in the making, and well worth the wait, said Lt. Col. Tyler Faulk, deputy director of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan’s Security Assistance Office..
“These C-130s are the Afghan Air Force’s first four engine aircraft with this type of expanded capability,” said Faulk. “This fleet allows them to transport supplies or troops within Afghanistan, as well as to partner nations where they can execute missions, trainings and exercises; a whole host of international activities.”
Faulk explained that the C-130 is a medium-lift aircraft, capable of expediting troop and supply movement, and allows for international reach, making it “a huge force multiplier.”
“Afghanistan needs to perform more missions and having a fourth C-130 allows for that,” said Afghan Air Force Capt. Muhammad Azimy, a C-130 pilot who has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the aircraft. “We need to support more troops, moving them as soon as possible from one point to another, getting them into the fight faster. Getting commandos from the north to the south by helicopter would take days, but by C-130 it will take only a few hours.”
“The new fleet is a complete departure from anything the Afghan Air Force has owned before,” said Faulk.
Fletcher and a team of eight other Airmen made the trip to Kabul to deliver the aircraft, which was formerly assigned to the 19th Operations Group at Little Rock AFB.
“I’m really excited for the trip,” said Senior Airman Kyle Miesbauer, a 50th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, assigned to the delivery flight. “I’ve never been to Afghanistan, but I joined the military to do things like this.”
The cargo plane was modified for its new home and has its own Afghan Air Force tail insignia and lettering.
“Maintenance crews from the 19th AW, 314th AW and 913th Airlift Group worked on the plane for more than 70 total man-hours to ensure that it was in outstanding condition,” said Fletcher.
The Afghan C-130H will be the second to come from Little Rock AFB. The four aircraft are the largest planes in the entire Afghan Air Force fleet.
The Air Force strategically picked a crew made up of Little Rock Airmen as well as Airmen from Peterson AFB, Colo.
“Who better to ask than the 50th Airlift Squadron and the 52nd AS,” said Fletcher. “They are two of the last active-duty squadrons that specialize solely on C-130Hs.”
Though this will be the last projected C-130 delivery, Airmen from Little Rock AFB will continue to help the Afghan Air Force make Herculean steps toward military independence through training their aircrews.
The C-130 formal training unit here has been training aircrew members from across the DOD and 44 allied nations for years. Afghanistan is among the newest nations to receive initial combat airlift training from the 314th AW at Little Rock AFB. The base is the only place equipped with the most experienced cadre of C-130 flight instructors and a $1.05 billion C-130 Aircrew Training System.
Without the initial training provided by the 314th Airlift Wing’s tactical airlift “Center of Excellence”, the delivery of four C-130Hs to the Afghan Air Force would not have been possible. Aviators, mechanics and loadmasters trained here in preparation for the arrival of the fleet, and the Afghan Air Force can now conduct regular maintenance and training in country.
As the Foreign Military Sales executor, the Security Assistance Office brought together the requirements needed from the Train, Advise, Assist Command – Air advisers, and connected them with available equipment in the U.S. inventory. After each plane’s arrival, they transitioned to supporting the sustainment of the aircraft.
“Our end goal is to get them to self-sufficiency, and train them well enough that they are able to take over the entire process from development of the capability, through procurement, sustainment and even life cycle management,” Faulk said.
Faulk has no doubts the Afghan Air Force will be able to step up to the challenge. He stressed the collaboration between Afghanistan and the Security Assistance Office played an important role in the successful procurement of the fleet.
“This was a massive effort taken on by the Afghans, but we’ve been around every step of the way to help ensure the mission’s success,” Faulk said.
“It’s a very effective aircraft, and will accomplish a lot of missions for the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and even President Ghani,” said Azimy. “This fourth C-130 is very important to us.”