The commander of the United States Central Command General Joseph L. Votel has requested the US Congress to approve the budget for the Afghan forces Blackhawk program.

In his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Votel informed regarding the significant capability gaps in Afghan Air Force, saying “The current rotary wing fleet consisting primarily of the Russian-made Mi-17 is both undersized and proving to be more expensive and difficult to sustain than originally envisioned and is experiencing a higher than expected attrition rate.”

Gen. Votel further added “Going forward, transitioning from Russian to U.S. airframes will ensure Afghan forces have a more sustainable fleet that is interoperable with U.S. forces and will enhance the Afghans’ ability to operate independently of coalition forces. The U.S. government is considering a critical AAF initiative to replace the unsustainable Russian-manufactured aircraft fleet and make up for combat losses in Afghan transport helicopters by providing U.S. UH-60s.”

He said “The DoD-request of $814.5M for FY17 for the first year of our plan to recapitalize the Afghan fleet provides funding to procure 53 UH-60s, with refurbishment and modification of the first 18; 30 additional armed MD-530F helicopters; 6 additional A-29 attack aircraft; and five AC-208s. The requested FY2017 Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) budget, including the 23 additional funds for the first year of this proposed aviation initiative, went to Congress on 10 Nov 2016.؛

“The FY17 proposal is pending approval and we appreciate your support in reaching resolution as soon as possible to mitigate the gaps in Afghan aerial fires and lift capabilities,” Gen. Votel said, adding that “Transition from Mi-17 to UH-60 airframes will eventually eliminate reliance on Russian sourced parts for maintenance requirements. With our support, we can expect the AAF will continue to build needed capability over the next few years and into the future.”

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