KANDAHAR, Afghanistan --
United States Forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Afghan National Defense and Security Force’s (ANDSF) air campaign against the Taliban was bolstered with the arrival of a squadron of A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft, Jan. 19
Commonly known as the Warthog, the A-10’s return to Afghanistan supports the increased need for close air support and precision strike capacity for a variety of efforts, including the strategic air campaign targeting Taliban revenue sources and counter-terrorism operations that continue to take place. These operations will also be supported by the placement of additional aircraft at Kandahar Airfield, including MQ-9 Reapers that provide armed over-watch and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the battlefield, and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, to conduct personnel recovery and search and rescue.
The arrival of these aircraft follows a recent decision by U.S. Air Forces Central Command to realign aircraft, airmen, and assets already in the U.S. Central Command AOR to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, to support increased airpower requirements of ANDSF and USFOR-A to implement South Asia Policy under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Along with a detachment of KC-135 Stratotankers that have operated from Kandahar since September, the A-10s, MQ-9s and HH-60G will complement F-16s, C-130J, EC-130H and other aircraft supporting these operations from Bagram Airfield.
These increased assets will assist with the ongoing ANDSF strategic air campaign that targets Taliban revenue sources of which are aimed at aggressively taking the fight to the Taliban.
"The Taliban still has not felt the full brunt of American and Afghan air power," said U.S. Air Force Major General James Hecker, commander of 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan and NATO Air Command-Afghanistan. "With the arrival of new air assets and the growing capabilities of Afghan pilots, the Talban will have a constant eye towards the sky as an integrated unified fight is aimed directly to them."
In a matter of days A-10s will conduct their first strike against the Taliban, continuing the air campaign destroying narcotics production facility. Since November, 30 strikes conducted against Taliban narcotics production facilities resulted more than $20 million in total impact on Taliban revenue.
Under the authorities granted in the South Asia Policy, precision strikes with A-10s will hit the Taliban where they are most vulnerable: their revenue streams and profits from developing and selling illegal narcotics.
Now the Taliban will face a more aggressive adversary in this air campaign as U.S. Air Force F-22s, F-16s, B-52s, A-10s and MQ-9s, along with support from Navy F-18s, will join in counter-finance operations.
"The A-10 provides planners even more options given its ability to deliver a wide variety of precision munitions and devastating firepower from its 30mm cannon," said U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Lance Bunch, chief, Future Operations, CJ35. "In the coming weeks, the A-10’s operations will be integrated into our combined U.S. and Afghan air campaign to deliver destructive precision firepower that sends a strong impactful message to the Taliban."
The Afghan Air Force (AAF) additionally will more than double their fleet of aircraft over the next seven years. Plans include the introduction of AC-208 attack aircraft and UH- 60 Black Hawk assault helicopters, as well as additional A-29 attack aircraft and MD- 530 attack helicopters.
Two years ago, AAF pilots made their first flights in A-29 aircraft and MD-530 attack helicopters. Today, Afghan pilots fly transport, attack aircraft, and helicopters from three wings across Afghanistan.
In the past year, the AAF effectively incorporated A-29 ground attack aircraft, C-208 and C-130 mobility aircraft, MD-530, and Mi-17 helicopters into daily operations, aided by Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators positioned in Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to successfully integrate operations that enable battlefield successes.
"The growing Afghan Air Force is vital to the success of ANDSF on the battlefield," said Major General Mohammad Shoaib, commander, AAF. "Dedicated pilots and crews provide resupply, close air attack, casualty evacuation, and air assault capabilities to their brothers on the ground. The success of the Air Force is key to tipping the battlefield in favor of ANDSF. The Afghan Air Force is successfully fighting and growing at the same time increasing attack capabilities while delivering daily blows to the Taliban."
Together with United States airpower the AAF will continue to develop critical warfighting capabilities needed to help them in their task of defeating the Taliban and setting conditions for reconciliation.