Afghan National Air Corps

Afghan National Air Corps

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Afghan National Air Corps

caption=The Afghan National Air Corps on parade
dates= 1924 -
country= Afghanistan
allegiance= Afghan National Army
size= 45 aircraftAnon. (12 April 2007) " [ Afghanistan to get 200 aircraft in three years: Wardak] ". "Pajhwok Afghan News". Retrieved 13 October 2007.]
current_commander=Brig. Gen. Mohammed Barat
current_commander_label=Chief of Staff
aircraft_attack= Mi-24
aircraft_trainer= L-39
aircraft_transport= An-26, An-32, Mi-8/ Mi-17
The Afghan National Air Corps is a service branch of the Military of Afghanistan, which is responsible for air defense and air warfare. It was established in 1924, but by the 1990s it reduced to a very small force while the country was torn by civil war. The Afghan National Air Corps is currently being rebuilt and modernized by the U.S.-led multinational Combined Air Power Transition Force of the U.S.-led international Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. [Department of Defense, [ Brief with Commander, CAPTF] , January 24, 2008]


The history of the Afghan National Air Corps began on 22 August 1924 as the Afghan Air Force, being founded with a few aircraft obtained from Russia as early as 1921. This small force was destroyed in 1929, and not reconstituted again until 1937. It was renamed the Royal Afghan Air Force in 1947 along with political changes in the country, a title it retained until further political upheaval in 1973. [ [ ACIG Journal - Indian-Subcontinent Database (Afghanistan)] ]

The Air Force had remained a relatively small branch of service until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the consequent Soviet support for the regime. While the Afghan Air Force was equipped with a large number of aircraft, many of them were manned and maintained by 'advisors' from Czechoslovakia and Cuba, and the quality of Afghan pilots was extremely limited.fact|date=July 2008

The Afghan Air Force was at its strongest between 1980 and 1992. Afghanistan's neighboring countries were uncomfortable with the growing military power of the Afghan Air Force. The air force had as many as 7,000 personnel plus 5,000 foreign advisors. It had a total of 500 aircraft, which included 200 helicopters, 100 jets and 200 transport planes before 1992.Pajhwok Afghan News, [ AAF to get 26 aircraft this year] , Jan. 17, 2008.] In the late 1980s the Afghan Air Force also had chemical and biological bombs, supplied by USSR. Strength changed rapidly as combat operations and Soviet supplies continued, but typical strength during the middle of the 1980s was: [Anon. (undated). " [ Afghanistan - Air Force] ". "Global Security". Retrieved 13 October 2007.]

* 3 x Interceptor squadrons (around 40 MiG-21)
* 4 x Fighter-bomber squadrons (around 50 MiG-17)
* 3 x Bomber squadrons (around 20 Il-28)
* Transports (around 15 An-26)
* Helicopters (around 30 Mi-24, Mi-8, and Mi-4)

After the Soviet withdrawal and the departure of foreign advisors, the Air Force declined rapidly as an effective force. Large numbers of aircraft were reported, but many were not operational, a number that rose through the 1990s. The Air Force ceased to be a single entity, instead breaking up amongst the different factions in the ensuing wars. By the end of the decade, both the Taliban and the Afghan Northern Alliance had a number of aircraft under their control, with either able to muster a small force (six to eight aircraft) to support major operations. This was done to a large degree through cannibalization of surviving airframes. These remaining planes were ultimately destroyed by American military operations in 2001.

Mil Mi-24 Assault Helicopter

The Mil Mi-24 Assault helicopter has a long history in Afghanistan. The aircraft was operated extensively during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, mainly for bombing Afghan Mujahideen fighters. The US supplied heat-seeking Stinger missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen, and the Soviet Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters proved vulnerable to rebel attacks. The Hind gunships constituted a part of the 333 helicopters lost during combat operations in Afghanistan, an unknown number to ground fire. The cockpit was heavily armoured and could withstand even .50 caliber (12.7 mm) rounds, but the tail is extremely vulnerable due to the lack of armour in that section.

The heat-seeking nature of the anti-aircraft weapons employed by the Mujahideen combined with the Hind's exhaust being directly under the main rotor caused the aircraft to disintegrate if hit. This was remedied later by countermeasure flares and a missile warning system being installed into all Soviet Mi-4, Mi-8, and Mi-24 helicopters giving the pilot a chance to evade by flying high above the range of the missile.

During this conflict, the Hind proved effective and very reliable, earning the respect of both Soviet and Afghan pilots, who scattered as quickly as possible when Soviet target designation flares were lit nearby. The Mujahideen nicknamed the Mi-24 as the "Devil's Chariot" due to its notorious reputation. Since the end of the Soviet war, the civil war, and the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan National Air Corps still continues to fly the helicopter type, which currently is Afghanistan's lead aircraft.


As of mid 2008, the Afghan National Air Corps had 19 rotary wing and 12 fixed wing aircraft in serviceable condition. The air force is being rebuilt following several decades of war. Most recent efforts involve airlift support for the disaster relief efforts following a major earthquake in Pakistan. [Anon. (13 November 2005). " [ Afghan troops return from relief efforts in Pakistan] " "Black Anthem". Retrieved 13 October 2007.]

The Afghan National Air Corps has never been a strong independent force. Most of its equipment are Russian-built aircraft including MiG-21 jet fighters and Mi-24 helicopter gunships built up during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s to combat the resistance of the Mujahideen groups.

The Afghan tendency towards de-centralization of military forces and the limited ability of the Afghan economy to pay for expensive equipment combine to make maintenance of a viable Afghan National Air Corps impossible without steady foreign infusions of money, equipment, and expertise.

However, current status of the Afghan National Air Corps is largely due to the massive American air power that has been made available. Nevertheless, in a country with extremely poor infrastructure, air transport capacity is extremely useful to the Afghan government. The Afghan government, with the help of the US-led coalition, is in the process of building up its air force in the coming years. In April 2007, Defense Minister of Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Wardak, said his country would have 200 aircraft in the coming three years. However, he did not explain which country would provide the planes.

The Afghan government was negotiating the purchase of Cessna T-37 Dragonfly jet aircraft as its main fighter/trainer. It is also reported that they are currently looking into the possibility of using the Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan II as its main fighter/trainer. The Antonov An-32 is Afghanistan's main transport aircraft. It is a twin-engined medium turboprop transport aircraft and is a development of the Antonov An-24, with particular attention made to short/ unprepared field use. Afghan National Air Corps holds seven Antonov An-32's.They also operate two Antonov An-26 types, although they are not seeking any more.

It was revealed in 2007 that the United States would provide 186 aircraft to the Afghan Air force, with deliveries to be completed before 2012. The first delivery arrived from the Czech Republic in August 2007 with 6 helicopters, consisting of Mi-17 and Mi-35. The shipments that will come in several batches will include transport helicopters, helicopter gunships, reconnaissance planes and fighter jets. It was also revealed that the US will donate 18 C-27A Spartan transport aircraft from Italy. Deliveries will begin in June 2009. The package will also include the training of 4,450 Afghan Air Force personnel such as pilots and engineers. It is also planned that by 2012, Afghanistan will have full control over all its bases except for Bagram Air Base, which is one of the main hubs for US troops. [cite news|author=James Bays
title=Rebuilding an air force
publisher="Al Jazeera" (English)
date= 2007-07-14
] [Reuters: [ U.S. to donate 186 aircraft to Afghanistan by 2012] ]


:"See full article: List of Afghan Air Force aircraft"

The Afghan National Air Corps inventory was significantly reduced following the Soviet withdrawal from the country and nearly eliminated in 2001. On the other hand, it has been gradually increasing since 2002 with more aircraft and personnel being added.

! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Source! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In serviceAerospace Source Book 2007, "Aviation Week & Space Technology", January 15, 2007.] ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes
Aero L-39 Albatros
Advanced trainer & light attack

C-27A Spartan
Tactical transport
Eighteen to be donated by the US from Italy. Deliveries to begin in June 2009 []
Antonov An-26 Curl
Tactical transport
Antonov An-32 Cline
Tactical transport
7 [ [ Afghan military aviation OrBat] ]
Mil Mi-24 Hind
Assault & anti-armour helicopter
Six additional Mi-35 are being delivered from the Czech Republic.
Mil Mi-8 Hip
Medium-lift helicopter & light attack
32 on order


! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Base! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Operator! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Description
Bagram Air Base (OAIX)
United States Army - flagicon|USA
Bagram is the largest purely military air base in Afghanistan. It is currently a primary center for United States and allied forces for cargo, helicopter, and support flights. Built in 1976, it has a 3,000 m runway capable of handling heavy bomber and cargo aircraft.
Kabul International Airport (OAKB)
ISAF (Norwegian Defence Force - flagicon|Norway)
Kabul is the nation's largest airport and the primary hub for international civilian flights. It also is capable of handling military aircraft, and has been used by American forces for cargo flights.
Kandahar International Airport (OAKN)
ISAF(Canadian Forces) - CAN
Kandahar is a dual-use airport serving civilian traffic to Kandahar and military support for the southern and central portions of the country. Kandahar has been a major center for American and Canadian forces.
Mazari Sharif Airport (OAMS)
ISAF (German Army - GER) / Afghanistan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation - flagicon|Afghanistan
Mazari is a dual-use airport serving the northern and central portions of the country. A small American contingent has been based there.
Herat Airfield (OAHR)
United States Air Force - USA
Herat is the primary civil airport for the western portion of the country, but also housed military aircraft.
Shindand Airbase (OASD)
Afghanistan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation - flagicon|Afghanistan
Shindand is the second largest military airbase in the country, located just south of Herat with significant military aircraft shelters and facilities.
Sheberghan Airfield (OASG)
Afghanistan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation - flagicon|Afghanistan
Sheberghan is a medium sized civilian airport in the northeast of the country.

A number of smaller airfields exist in the country, including:

* Qala i Naw (QAQN) in Badghis province - single 6,980 feet concrete runway (04/22) []
* Bamyan (OABN) - single 8,515 feet gravel runway (7/25)
* Dehdadi - single 8,472 feet gravel runway (08/26)
* Fayzabad or Razer (OARZ) - single 2,858 feet gravel runway (08/26)
* Ghazni
** Ghazni (OAGN) - aerodrome with single 1,000 feet runway (15/33)
** Band E Sardeh Dam (OABT) - single 6,902 gravel runway (02/20)
* Jalalabad (OAJL)- single 7,277 feet asphalt runway (13/31)
* Khowst or "Khost" (OAKS) - single 8,805 feet gravel runway airfield (06/24)
* Konduz or Kotubkhel (OAUZ) - single 8450 feet gravel runway (14/32)
* Maimana (OAMN) - single 4224 feet gravel runway (14/32)
* Meymaneh - single runway
* Nili (OANL) - single 2400 feet gravel runway (18/36)
* Taloqan or Taluqan (Taloqan) (OATQ) - single 5165 feet gravel runway (08/26) for helicopters only
* Teh Wareh (OATW) - single 1,950 feet gravel runway (18/36)
* Yangi Qala (OAYQ) - single 2,140 feet gravel runway (03/21)

North Side Cantonment Area - Kabul International Airport

This facility is under construction with completion due in mid 2008. It will house the command facilities for the Afghan National Air Corps, and includes housing, administrative, operations, maintenance and recreation facilities. The project includes two new hangar complexes, new taxiway and ramps. It will be the new core of the Afghan National Air Corps.

The first hangar facility was turned over to the Afghan National Air Corps in January 2008.


During its first incarnation, Afghan aircraft carried simple black and white depictions of the Muslim arms of Afghanistan, with the inscription 'God is great' on the underside of the wings. The Afghan flag was possibly used as well. Afghanistan adopted a black, red, and green flag after the 1929 revolt, and when the air force was given planes again in 1937, it placed this flag on the rudder, and adopted wing and fuselage roundels based on the three colors.

The Royal Afghan Air Force retained the roundels until adopting a new style in 1967, with a unique insignia consisting of a tri-color triangle using the national colors upon a white disc, on which was inscribed with Arabic lettering forming various phrases. This roundel was placed on the rudder in place of the flag. This remained in use after the overthrow of the monarchy until the Russian invasion in 1979, when a new insignia of a red disc with yellow inscriptions was adopted. This was short-lived however, as in 1983, a more Soviet-standard red star on a white disc ringed in black, red, and green was adopted. These were maintained until after the Soviet departure.

Upon the departure of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, and the fall of the communist government, a return to the triangle insignia was noted, although markings varied depending on the ownership of the aircraft.

See also

*Afghan National Army
*Military of Afghanistan
*International Security Assistance Force
*Provincial Reconstruction Team


External links

* [ article on the training of Afghan pilots]
* [ page on the Afghan Air Force]
* [ Photos of Afghan aircraft]
* [ Roundels of the world, Afghanistan]

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