Marine Gen. Kenneth Mckenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), on Aug. 30 said that the U.S. military had demilitarized 70 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, 27 Humvees, Raytheon Technologies [RTX]-built C-RAM Intercept Land-based Phalanx Weapon Systems, and 73 aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) before the departure of U.S. forces.
While McKenzie did not specify the 73 aircraft demilitarized and neither CENTCOM nor the Pentagon nor the State Department have responded to requests to detail those aircraft, the latter are likely limited to at most eight types–Lockheed Martin [LMT] C-130 transports and UH-60 Black Hawks, MD Helicopters‘ MD-530 Cayuse Warrior attack helicopters, Embraer–Sierra Nevada Corp. A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, Cessna [TXT] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] AC-208 and C-208 light attack/reconnaissance/utility aircraft, Boeing [BA] CH-46E Sea Knights used by the State Department for personnel transport and evacuation, and Russian Mi-17 helicopters, which the Afghan Air Force (AAF) had turned to in the last several years, per the DoD Inspector General, for their relative ease to fly and maintain and their higher lift capacity, compared to the Black Hawk.
As of June 30, AAF had 167 usable aircraft in country–43 MD-530s, 33 UH-60s, 32 Mi-17s, 23 A-29s, 23 C-208s, 10 AC-208s, and three C-130s, according to the July 30 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) quarterly report.
“The Afghan government claimed on June 29, 2021, that the AAF carried out 491 attacks on Taliban positions in the past month,” the report said. “The UH-60 fleet of helicopters provided by the United States is meeting the operational needs of the AAF. However, accidents, battle damage, the withdrawal of U.S. and contractor logistics support (CLS) personnel, and the resultant consolidation of CLS in Kabul as the main maintenance hub for almost all aircraft repair is damaging the health of the UH-60 fleet. With reduced personnel due to the withdrawal of contractors as well as the increased operational tempo, UH-60 CLS has temporarily shifted from training and mentoring the AAF to aircraft maintenance in an attempt to improve aircraft availability.”
In addition to the 167 usable aircraft in Afghanistan as of June 30, 37 UH-60s bought for the AAF were held in strategic reserve in the United States, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had told now-deposed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that DoD would deliver three of the UH-60s by July 23, the SIGAR report said. In addition, DoD was to deliver four MD-530s to the AAF to replace battle damaged aircraft.
By June 30, NATO’s Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan (NSOCC-A) had withdrawn from Afghanistan, closed the command’s bases, and moved to “over-the horizon” counterterrorism operations support against al-Qaeda and Islamic State-Khorasan operations (ISIS-K) originating from Afghanistan, the report said.
NSOC-A had told SIGAR that last quarter the Afghan Special Mission Wing (SMW), which had previously relied on Mi-17s for counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions, had begun integrating UH-60s into the inventory, as the Afghans had received their first UH-60 rated crew and Level 3-certified basic maintenance mechanics.
“Integration of the UH-60s reduces the need to overwork the older Mi-17 aircraft still in the AAF inventory,” the SIGAR report said. “However, the SMW can field no more than one UH-60 per night for helicopter missions. Also, because of the withdrawal, ‘the SMW has begun to transition from contract logistics support maintenance at each squadron location to a centralized hub-and-spoke maintenance posture’ centered in Kabul. NSOCC-A explained that from now on aircraft from around the country will be flown or transported to HKIA for maintenance.”