With the stand up of a new squadron, the Afghan A-29 Light Air Support training mission is soon to begin at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Afghan air force pilots and maintainers will begin training on the A-29 Super Tucano in February 2015, according to a 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs release by Senior Airman Stephanie Englar.
“The unit will begin training a cadre of instructor pilots and maintainers in the A-29 this month, and in February 2015, the 81st FS will begin training the first class of Afghan pilots and maintainers.”
The 14th Flying Training Wing stood up the 81st Fighter Squadron Oct. 1. The squadron will use the A-29 to train 30 Afghan pilots and 90 Afghan maintainers over the next four years. When the training is completed, the Super Tucanos will be provided to the Afghan air force for surveillance, reconnaissance, and light attack duties.
“The A-29 unit was formally activated as the 81st Fighter Squadron Oct. 1,” said 14th Operations Group Commander Col. James Boster. “The unit will begin training a cadre of instructor pilots and maintainers in the A-29 this month, and in February 2015, the 81st FS will begin training the first class of Afghan pilots and maintainers.”
As part of the requirement from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the pilots and maintainers have to be trained outside of Afghanistan. The A-29 will be replacing the Russian-built Mil Mi-35 attack helicopter in the training and service roles.
“Specifically the mission that we are going to replace is the Mi-35 helicopter, which is an attack helicopter, so they cover some of the same missions,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Hogan, Afghan A-29 Light Air Support training unit commander. “But really this aircraft is a monumental leap in capabilities for the Afghan Air Force. It will allow us to do some overlap of those [Mi-35] missions and will do a lot better; it will also expand some other missions, which they currently cannot execute.”
“The A-29 provides a great capability for the Afghan Air Force,” Boster said. “It has the speed and range to reach all of Afghanistan and most importantly, the ability to provide fire power from the air. Ultimately, this capability will be used by Afghan pilots to support Afghanistan’s own troops on the ground.”