The Afghan air force received an addition to its forces with the arrival of the 10th C-27A Spartan at the Afghan Air Force Base in Kabul Feb. 20, marking the half-way point in the AAF's C-27 fleet as it continues to build to 20.
Not only valuable for Afghanistan's burgeoning cargo capabilities, the addition of another C-27 provides a greater training platform for the AAF as it gains a greater proficiency in the aircraft.
The C-27A is a rugged, twin-engine turboprop aircraft with short take-off and landing capability.
The Spartan is well suited for Afghanistan's mountainous terrain and limited road network.
These obstacles make air power critical to the mobility of the Afghan National Security Forces.
A C-27 can carry up to 20,000 pounds of cargo and fuel and operate on unimproved airfields as short as 3,000 feet, which allows access to airstrips unreachable by most fixed-wing aircraft.
"This increases the aircraft available and hours available for training, allowing Afghan pilots a greater opportunity to fly and become accustomed to the aircraft," said Maj. Todd Andrewson, a C-27 pilot adviser with the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron who flew the aircraft to Kabul from Naples, Italy.
This impact to the AAF is seen as an immediate one by Lt. Col. Christopher Smith, the 538th AEAS commander, who said the aircraft is scheduled to begin taking part in training operation within two days of its arrival.
"It just feels good to see growth on the flight line," said Major Andrewson, who had brought in C-27 number four nearly 10 months ago when he first arrived to Afghanistan.
Major Andrewson also believes that the training and operational benefits that the new C-27 provides is another step towards the ultimate goal of a fully independent Afghan air force.
"The quicker they can build up the C-27 squadron, the quicker they can completely handle their own operations and have less of a need for coalition support," he said.
The Afghan air force is expected to receive its 11th C-27A Spartan in early April. These new aircraft will provide increased support for the Afghan National Security Force.
Seen as a key contributor to the future of the Afghan air force, the C-27 is phasing out the Antonov-32 as the centerpiece of Afghanistan's cargo/transport mission. The Antonov-26 was discontinued from service in the AAF earlier in the year, and the AN-32 has a projected end-of-service date of June 2011.