US may arm Afghan Air Corps with drones

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The US military is looking at eventually equipping Afghanistan‘s air corps with unmanned aircraft for surveillance missions, a general said on Wednesday.

“Right now, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are not part of that capability that we are envisioning for them,” said US Brigadier General Walter Givhan, who is helping Kabul revive its air force.
“However, I think it fits into that category of things that, as we continue to develop and we get the basics down, that we look at adding to their portfolio,” Givhan said in a report carried by French news agency AFP.

The US military wanted to ensure the small air force could carry out reconnaissance and surveillance missions but those tasks would be carried out initially with manned aircraft, he said.

For tracking and hunting down insurgents, drones have become an invaluable asset for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Givhan said Afghanistan had an urgent need to deploy manned aircraft that could ferry troops and supplies in a country with rugged terrain and poor roads.

The Afghans were also working to train new pilots, with dozens of pilots due to receive instruction in the United States. The average age of air force’s pilots — trained during the Soviet era — is 45.

The Afghan army’s air corps currently has 36 aircraft and 2700 airmen.
Washington‘s goal was to raise the fleet to 139 aircraft with 7250 airmen by 2016, Givhan said.

The plan to revive the country’s air force is part of a wider US-led effort to train and equip Afghan security forces to fight the Taliban and allied insurgents.

At the moment, the US military largely provides air power for Afghan forces.



The US-led invasion to oust the Taliban regime in 2001 finished off the last remnants of the Soviet-built air force, which at its peak boasted a fleet of more than 350 aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers.