The Afghan Air Force flew more than 20,000 missions last year as the Afghan national security forces went through a significantly challenging year after assuming the full security responsibilities from the coalition forces.
Hailing the Afghan forces for improving their capabilities, the NATO Secretary General said the Afghan security forces are ‘showing great courage and determination.”
He was speaking during a press conference with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani after arriving to Afghanistan on an official visit.
“They are improving their capabilities. They are stepping up air operations, including with new aircraft,” Stoltenberg told reporters in his opening marks during the press conference.
Stoltenberg further added “To give just one example, in 2015 the Afghan Air Force flew more than 20,000 missions – more than twice as many as the year before. This is just one example of how the Afghan forces are making progress.”
Insisting that the Afghan forces do not stand alone, Stoltenberg said “NATO and our partners have been working side-by-side with them for over a decade.”
“At a great cost, we have made great progress together in the fight against terrorism. We owe our deep gratitude to the brave men and women of our armed forces. And we pay tribute to all those who have fallen in the line of duty. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Stoltenber added.
This comes as the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) expects to start 2016 more capabilities as compared to the previous years in suppressing the anti-government armed militants, amid optimims with the growing the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force (AAF), both in terms of equipment and manpower.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford said earlier this month that the addition of MD-530 helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano light attack fixed-wing aircraft to Afghan Air Force will make a difference as integration of aviation assets into the Afghan combined arms campaign will receive more attention this year.
The delivery of the first batch of Light Attack aircraft to the Afghan armed forces formally concluded in mid January this year in the presence of the Afghan defense officials.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) officials are also optimistic to receive additional close-air support combat choppers and fixed-wing close-air support aircraft during the year, including 28 MD-530F helicopters that would be outfitted with military equipment.
Pentagon has already awarded MD Helicopters Inc. a maximum $44.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to develop and provide an armament package for the MD-530F helicopters that were already supplied to the Afghan Air Force.
Around 17 of the Afghan Air Force’s MD-530F helicopter will be upgraded under the contract which is expected to be completed early next year.