Tag Archives: Afghan

MD Helicopters to Deliver 12 MD 530F Helicopters to the Afghan Air Force

By on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) was recently awarded a firm fixed price contract to manufacture and deliver twelve (12) MD 530F aircraft for the Afghan Air Force.

This is an Option award to the Department of the Army Non–Standard Rotary Wing (NSRW) Aircraft Contract for provision of Primary Training Aircraft (PTA). The exercise of this Option is a reinforcement of the U. S. Army’s confidence in MD Helicopters’ ability to deliver reliable, mission-ready aircraft, training, logistics and support to the United States Military and our Allies.

“We are honored to receive this award from Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft Project Office,” said Lynn Tilton, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of MD Helicopters, Inc. “The MD 530F has proven to be an exceptional aircraft for the Afghan Air Force; playing an integral role in readying Afghan pilots to fly reconnaissance, scout and transport missions in support of critical engagements resulting from increasing threats.”

Since the first MD helicopters arrived in Shindand in 2011, Afghan pilots have logged more than 5,700 hours flying the MD 530F in the performance of initial entry rotary wing training.

Equipped with the 650 shp Rolls Royce 250-C30 engine and longer main-rotor blades, the MD 530F is world renown as a reliable high-altitude, hot-day performer, perfectly suited for the conditions found in the Afghan theater.

Known for speed, safety, agility and the ability to operate with ease in confined spaces, the MD 530F delivers increased operational capabilities and greater mission versatility and performance.

These twelve (12) MD 530Fs will be initially configured to train Afghan pilots for operation in austere flight conditions. Designed for easy modification in response to changing threat levels, these aircraft will be reconfigured to operate the weapon systems necessary to deliver mission-specific light attack capabilities.

“The OH-6 Cayuse, the platform on which the MD 530F is based, is a legendary aircraft,” Ms. Tilton concludes. “This helicopter is an icon within rotary wing aviation; an enduring example of MD Helicopters’ is committed to serving the U.S. military and Allied forces who serve, protect and defend our freedoms. With this award, we are proud to deliver to the U.S. Army a critical resource in support of a critical need, and are ready to provide enhanced mission capabilities as required.”

This program, as a result of MDHI’s sound and strategic supplier relationships and focused management practices, is currently ahead of schedule. MDHI is on track to deliver the first six (6) new MD 530Fs to Afghanistan in the first quarter of 2015, with the balance set to be in country by mid-year.

MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) is a leading manufacturer of commercial, military, law enforcement and air-rescue helicopters. The MDHI family of rotorcraft is world renowned for its value, versatility and performance. The MD Helicopters family includes the twin-engine MD Explorer, and single engine versions of the MD 600N, MD 520N, MD 500E, MD 530F, MD 530G and MD 540A. The innovative NOTAR system for anti-torque control with no tail rotor is used exclusively by MD Helicopters to provide safer, quieter and confined-area access capability.

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US Efforts to Stand-up Afghan Air Force Still Falling Down

By on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Recently, POGO reported on the failed attempt to provide C-27A Spartan aircraft to the Afghans in order to fulfill their medium airlift requirements. Now, the successor effort to replace the C-27As with C-130Hs is also experiencing turbulence. Fortunately, after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) sounded the alarm, a congressional committee has taken action to prevent a further waste of money.

In 2008, the Pentagon began an initiative to provide C-27As to the Afghan Air Force; however, the program was cancelled in 2012 due to poor planning and mismanagement by the Pentagon. The sixteen C-27As that were delivered to Afghanistan have been sitting unused on a runway in Kabul since then. Though the contract required that the aircraft be flown a minimum of 4,500 hours from January to September 2012, the Department of Defense Inspector General determined that the aircraft had only been flown a total of 234 hours during that time period.

The primary reason for the program’s problems and eventual cancellation was that Pentagon procurement officials and defense contractors failed to ensure the availability of critical spare parts necessary to operate and sustain the aircraft. The Pentagon spent close to half a billion dollars on this botched effort.

Following the C-27A failure, the Pentagon moved to provide C-130H Hercules, a large four-engine transport aircraft previously used by the U.S. Air Force, to the Afghan Air Force with two being delivered last year and another two slated for this year. These aircraft, like the C-27As before them, are intended to transport soldiers, supplies, medical evacuees, and VIPs across Afghanistan’s rugged and mountainous terrain.

However, the SIGAR, John Sopko, who is tasked with evaluating and auditing U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan, has concluded that the two existing C-130s stationed in Afghanistan are being underutilized, and that the further delivery of an additional two C-130s should be shelved.

Sopko and his team analyzed the two C-130s’ flight data and compared it with the aircraft’s maximum flight capacity to determine whether the Afghans were fully utilizing the two aircraft in their possession. SIGAR concluded that the two C-130s were capable of flying a maximum of 555 hours from October 2013 to May 2014, yet the Afghan Air Force’s C-130s only flew 261 hours during that time period—48 percent of the aircraft’s maximum flying capacity.

Furthermore, SIGAR analyzed the amount of cargo and passengers that were being flown onboard the two C-130s to determine if less expensive means of transportation would have been more appropriate. SIGAR found that the C-130s were carrying only half of their maximum capacity, and most of the flights carried only passengers and light cargo, both of which, SIGAR found, could be transported using existing smaller aircraft and ground vehicles.

Ultimately, Sopko strongly recommended that the two additional pending C-130s not be delivered to Afghanistan. According to the Air Force estimates cited in SIGAR’s report, ending the delivery of just one additional C-130 would save more than $40 million in procurement, maintenance, training, and modifications through 2017.

Sopko also noted that, similar to the C-27A, there were problems with sustaining and maintaining the Afghan’s C-130s. “Issues with sustaining U.S.-funded infrastructure and equipment in Afghanistan are not new….However, the opportunity exists with the C-130s to ensure that the Afghans are capable of supporting what we have already given them before providing additional aircraft,” Sopko wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other military leaders that accompanied his C-130 report.

Following Sopko’s letter, the Senate Appropriations Committee included language in its annual defense appropriations bill that would prohibit the additional transfer of C-130s to Afghanistan until the Department of Defense conducts a review of current Afghan Air Force requirements. Overall, the bill recommends providing $4.1 billion for the Afghan Security Forces, which includes the Afghan Air Force, in Fiscal Year 2015.

Given the absolute failure of the C-27A program, the Pentagon must ensure the operational value of providing additional fixed wing aircraft to the Afghans before delivering additional assets. The United States spent tens of billions of dollars training and equipping the Iraqi military, but it is still unable to field an effective Air Force with which to repel violent militants attempting to destabilize Iraq.

So far, the United States has spent more than $56 billion on the Afghan military. The Pentagon must do more to ensure that this funding is not being wasted.

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New Afghan War Plan Announced, But How Much Will It Cost?

By on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

President Barack Obama recently announced that, following the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan this year, the United States will retain a residual force of 9,800 troops to continue to train local security forces and conduct counterterrorism operations. Under this new plan, the number of troops in Afghanistan will continue to decline until Fiscal Year 2017 when all U.S. troops will be redeployed.

The White House had been holding back the announcement while awaiting the final results of the presidential election in Afghanistan, in which both leading candidates have pledged to support a long-term security agreement, known as a Bilateral Security Agreement, to authorize a U.S.-led military presence in the country after 2014. But with pressure mounting in Congress for the President to declare a path forward, he has decided to pull the trigger and announce his commitment to a residual force of 9,800 troops.

While the Pentagon submitted its regular base budget request back in March, it held back on submitting the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), also known as war funding, request pending the results of the Afghan election and the President’s announcement on troop levels.

It’s important that the administration’s forthcoming OCO funding request reflect the President’s vision for a significantly truncated force in Afghanistan next year. As William Hartung of the Center for International Policy points out, “In recent years, the OCO budget has been saddled with tens of billions of dollars in expenditures that are unrelated to the war in Afghanistan or any other overseas contingency.”

For example, last year, the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan fell by almost forty percent, but the amount of war funding provided actually increased in nominal terms from $82 billion to $85.2 billion. This was largely due to an increase in war funding provided by Congress to help the Pentagon circumvent statutory spending caps that have constrained growth in the defense budget. As a result, the OCO account has become a slush fund that supports activities and assets unrelated to counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. For example, earlier this year, the Air Force used OCO funds to replace a V-22 Osprey that had crashed during a training exercise in Florida.

Currently, there are no statutory restrictions on what activities or programs may be included in the OCO account. Fortunately, concern over the OCO slush fund has been growing in Congress. The recent slush fund gimmickry has caught the attention of Representatives Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Patrick Murphy (D-FL) who successfully offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would codify metrics developed by the Office of Management and Budget to determine what should and should not be funded through the OCO account. For example, this amendment would authorize the military to use the account only to replace aircraft that have been destroyed in combat.

The primary purpose of the OCO account is to fund unexpected contingency operations to which Congress and military budget planners cannot respond quickly enough. Regrettably, though, the OCO account is now being used to support long-term, so-called “enduring” missions. According to senior military officials, war funding is now being used to support operations in Africa, global ship deployments, and operational costs for the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Mulvaney-Murphy amendment would crack down on this trend by restricting the ability of the Pentagon to spend war funds outside of certain geographic areas.

Representatives Mulvaney and Murphy were recently joined by a group of twenty-two lawmakers in writing to the President requesting that he reduce war funding as major combat operations in Afghanistan draw to a close. “As the last of our troops prepare to come home, it is also time to wind down the OCO budget and fund the operations of the Defense Department entirely through the base budget,” the bipartisan group wrote.

So, with the Pentagon in the final stages of preparing its OCO budget request for Fiscal Year 2015, the question remains: how much funding should be provided for the war in Afghanistan?

During previous budget cycles, the annual per troop cost has been pegged at around $1.3 million according to Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Based on historic funding trends, Harrison estimates that maintaining a force of 9,800 troops should cost around $20 billion. “Twenty billion [dollars] is a reasonable estimate for what it will cost for 9,800 troops in Afghanistan next year. It’s a legitimate number. In fact, it’s a little above the trend line, but pretty close to it,” Harrison told Defense News.

Indeed, the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor has also suggested that the Pentagon will need around $20 billion to prosecute the war in Afghanistan and draw down to a force of 9,800 personnel next year. An additional $5 billion will likely be required to support the retrograde of equipment out of Afghanistan. Yet, what remains to be seen is whether Congress’s propensity for padding the war funding account with unrelated activities and programs wins out over prudent and accountable budgeting.

Both Congress and the Pentagon must avoid the temptation of adding billions of dollars in unrelated expenses to the OCO account. The Senate can help end this practice by adopting the Mulvaney-Murphy OCO language in its version of the NDAA.

Furthermore, the Pentagon should request, and Congress should appropriate, a reasonable level of funding close to the $20-25 billion likely needed to support continued counterterrorism activities in Afghanistan. However, this $20-25 billion figure should be seen as a ceiling, not a floor, and the Pentagon can and should do everything possible to bring down costs in a safe and responsible manner.

Should lawmakers appropriate at a level above that requested by military planners, the Project On Government Oversight will vigorously support efforts to bring that funding level in line with what is needed to close out the longest war in American history. Last year, an amendment offered by Representatives Mulvaney and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) did just that, and enjoyed broad bipartisan support on the House floor.

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NATO to Suspend Cooperation with Russia on Afghan Choppers, Training

By on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

NATO will suspend cooperation with Russia on the maintenance of Afghan helicopters and a joint anti-drug operation, a source in the alliance told RIA Novosti.

Foreign chiefs of NATO’s 28 member states earlier froze “practical civilian and military cooperation” with Moscow but vowed to keep intact the NATO-Russia Council and diplomatic contacts at the ambassadorial level and above.

They also said Tuesday the Western military bloc would consider reviving ties with Moscow during the next Brussels meeting in June.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier said the bloc hoped to continue working with Russia in Afghanistan and train anti-drug officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to an anonymous source in the alliance, current trainees will be allowed to complete the training program. The project will then be scrapped.

The same future lies ahead for the maintenance program of Afghan helicopters, meaning NATO will have to think of another way to procure spare parts for the Russia-made choppers, bypassing the NATO-Russia Council.

The freeze in Russia-NATO cooperation will not affect the existing bilateral agreement on cargo transit to Afghanistan across Russian territory.

The source also noted that the freeze would stay in place indefinitely until the situation around Ukraine improved. These measures, the official explained, are linked to Russia’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis and would be lifted only when Moscow changed its stance on the issue.

Russia has been reluctant to negotiate with Ukraine, where an ultranationalist opposition has been in power since a February coup, calling the new government illegitimate.

The West has long been pressuring Moscow to recognize the Maidan regime, despite the fact that Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich has never been impeached and fled the country for fear of being executed by right-wing militia.

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NATO: Afghan Security Force Casualties Too High

By on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan says the country’s police and army are losing too many men in battle.

U.S. General Joseph Dunford said Afghan security forces may need up to five more years of Western training and support before they can handle combat operations entirely on their own.

Dunford made the comments in an interview published on September 3 in the British daily “The Guardian.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has promised that Afghans will take full responsibility for their country’s security by the end of 2014, although some NATO troops will remain to provide training.

Dunford suggested that some of these soldiers may be required until 2018. He also said that in fulfilling its “assist” role, NATO may be required to provide combat support.

His comments come a day after militants attacked a U.S. base in Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan, setting off bombs, torching vehicles and shutting down a key road used by NATO supply trucks.

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Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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Army’s new mobile network to support its Afghan security mission

By on Monday, June 3rd, 2013

As the U.S. mission in Afghanistan evolves from full spectrum combat operations to a support role in helping Afghan forces take hold of their country’s security, unit commanders emphasize the need for network mobility.

Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 2, the Army’s improved tactical network communications backbone, was designed to fulfill such a mission.

“As we reduce our presence in Afghanistan, it is absolutely critical that we continue to understand what is happening around us, to understand the operational environment,” said Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), during a recent training exercise at Fort Drum, in preparation for his unit’s possible deployment to Afghanistan. “My ability to take the information that I am hearing from my team leaders, and then share it with all of our Afghan partners, so they can correspondingly help confirm or deny that information and share what they are seeing, is one of the most critical elements as we go forward into Afghanistan over the next year.”

The mobile WIN-T Increment 2 network is being fielded as part of the Army’s new capability sets. Capability Set 13, or CS 13, is the first of these fully-integrated fielding efforts, which are scalable and tailorable in design to support the changing requirements of current and future missions. CS 13 includes radios, satellite systems, software applications, smartphone-like devices and other network components that provide connectivity from the stationary command post to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier. WIN-T Increment 2 is the tactical communications network backbone that binds the capability sets together.

The Army began fielding CS 13 in October 2012 to 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, which is based at Fort Drum, and to the 4th BCT, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Polk, La. The two units are training with these advanced capabilities and preparing for possible deployment to Afghanistan with them later this year. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Headquarters has already been fielded with WIN-T Increment 2 elements, and two BCTs from the 101st are slated for full CS 13 fielding later this year.

If called upon to deploy, Army BCTs armed with CS 13 capabilities will serve as Security Forces Advisory and Assist Teams, or SFAATs, who will work with Afghan National Security Forces to improve their capability and help the Afghans secure their country as coalition forces reduce their presence. The coalition forces’ footprint continues to decrease and many of the forward operating bases and fixed sites used to access the network are being dismantled.

As U.S. forces take down their fixed infrastructure and become more dispersed and mobile in conducting these support operations, they will rely on WIN-T Increment 2 for critical reach-back communications.

“If you take a look at what we’re doing in Afghanistan right now, as U.S. forces start to reduce their presence, we’re still partnered with the Afghan National Security Forces and continue to focus on their development, but we’re doing it over greater distances,” Whitehurst said. “We are distributed throughout the area on a much greater scale than we were before.”

Having the capability to command and control the brigade on-the-move gives commanders the ability to extend their reach even as the Army reduces its presence. It will enable them to focus on the mission of developing the Afghan Security Forces, Whitehurst said.

WIN-T Increment 1, formerly known as the Joint Network Node-Network, began fielding in 2004 and provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to battalion level units, at-the-quick-halt. It utilizes both satellite and line-of-sight capability for optimum network connectivity and bandwidth efficiency. WIN-T Increment 2 improves upon these technologies by providing Soldiers with an integrated network, which for the first time, provides mobility and reaches down to the company level. It further increases capability by introducing network radios to the architecture and enhancing Network Operations, a suite of integrated monitoring tools used by communications officers to command and control the network.

When it comes to combating the communication challenges created by Afghanistan’s harsh and expansive terrain, WIN-T Increment 2 provides an advantage over previous capability. It enables communication signals to better reach over mountains and across deserts, said Capt. Jesse Ellis, commander of C company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

“It is important to be able to communicate quickly and effectively so Soldiers can get the message back and have more support from higher echelons if they need it,” Ellis said. “[WIN-T Increment 2] will close the gap in the terrain and the distance, and make things a lot easier for these Soldiers as they become [increasingly] more spread apart.”

As SFAAT missions evolve, Soldiers will no longer be tied to fixed U.S. bases and secure network infrastructure, so maintaining communications through WIN-T Increment 2 while assisting the Afghans is a “tremendous capability” to bring to the effort, said Maj. Graham Wood, brigade communications officer for 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division.

“It can give a mobile team, such as an SFAAT, the data capability traditionally only available at the brigade and battalion Tactical Operations Centers,” Wood said. “Soldiers are not tied to a single point; they can take that upper tier phone and internet capability and can move it wherever they need to go to support their mission.”

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Iraq, Afghan wars to cost US up to $6 trillion: study

By on Monday, April 1st, 2013

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars will cost the United States between $4-6 trillion in the long term, constraining the government’s budget for decades to come, a study said.

Harvard University scholar Linda Bilmes concluded that the United States will face increasing costs to care for an estimated 2.5 million veterans, and to pay down debt incurred by borrowing to pay for the wars.

“As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives,” said the report released Thursday.

“In short, there will be no peace dividend, and the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be costs that persist for decades,” it said.

Bilmes, who served in government under former president Bill Clinton, calculated that the United States has already spent nearly $2 trillion directly for the two wars launched by former president George W. Bush.

But Bilmes’ study said the biggest cost would be medical care and disability benefits, saying that more than half of the 1.56 million troops discharged from service have already been granted benefits for life.

Bilmes, who called the numbers unprecedented, said that costs will climb over decades. She wrote that the peak year for disability payments over World War I, which ended in 1918, was 1969 as veterans became elderly.

“The magnitude of future expenditures will be even higher for the current conflicts, which have been characterized by much higher survival rates, more generous benefits and new, expensive medical treatments,” she said.

Bilmes also factored in debt, finding no precedent for a time when the United States went to war while lowering taxes, with the possible exception of the Revolutionary War when US colonies borrowed from France.

The study also looked at social costs, with families burdened with the effects of the deaths or injuries of service members.

The United States is expected to maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan after 2014, when President Barack Obama plans to withdraw combat troops first sent after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Opinion polls show that most of the US public has grown weary of the longest US war, in Afghanistan, and is critical of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq a decade ago.

Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary under Bush, said before the invasion that the Iraq war would cost around $50 billion and called higher estimates “baloney.”

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