The United States (U.S) will hand over 165 Black Hawk helicopters in total to the Afghan Air Force (AIF) between now and 2022, Kabul air force brigade commander Lt. Gen Mohammad Amin Jan said on Tuesday.
“The United States has committed to giving us 165 helicopters and the process of the hand over will start in the next three months, because our pilots have not been trained. They should first be trained in Afghanistan, from Kandahar airport,” said Amin Jan.
Officials said once the helicopters have been delivered, many of the air force’s challenges will be overcome.
On Monday however, Ghulam Sakhi Ahmadzai, technical and financial deputy defense minister, said at a press conference that at least four Black Hawks would be handed over before the end of this fiscal year.
According to Ahmadzai, the U.S and the international community will continue to support the Afghan security and defense forces as long as these institutions fight corruption.
“It is specified that Afghan forces will receive four Black Hawk helicopters by the end of the fiscal year and the process will continue up to 2022. We will receive the support step by step,” said Ahmadzai.
Meanwhile, a number of helicopter pilots from the Afghan Air Force welcomed the news and said they currently fly about 20 times a week to provinces.
Payenda Mohammad is one pilot who has flown for the Afghan Air Force for 26 years. He said he has been ferrying troops to the battlefields for years. He has also ferried the bodies of fallen soldiers and transported the wounded over the years, he said adding that he also does supply runs of equipment and food to the battlefields.
“Supporting land forces is our priority as well as the transferring of equipment, ammunition and wounded and killed,” he said.
“The hardest flight for me was the day when I was transferring a young soldier who lost both his arms and legs. He died on the way and it was very tragic for me,” said Hashmatullah Jahid, another pilot.
“We go to the battle zones, but we fly in order to maintain security and transfer security forces,” said another pilot, Mohammad Asif Amini.