Indian Mi-25 helicopters set to join Afghan Air Force

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 21, 2016

Three Mi-25 gunship helicopters supplied by India are to officially join the Afghan Air Force today. The gunships, delivered at the end of December last year, have been in the assembly process.

The decision for the delivery of Mi-25 gunship helicopters was concluded during the recent visit of Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar to New Delhi.

The attack helicopters are designed to take on fortified enemy positions and counter heavy ground fire. The Afghanistan Air Force (AAF) already operates three Indian Cheetal helicopters.

The Cheetal helicopters were manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Subsequently, Afghan pilots and technicians were trained to operate them.

Sources indicated that the Afghan government has stepped up efforts to build the capabilities of the AAF to combat the Taliban-led insurgency across the country.

Earlier, during the inauguration of the new compound of the Ministry of Defence at the end of December 2015, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had thanked India for the delivery of the Mi-25 gunships, calling the air support for the Afghan forces a critical need in the current situation.

India is set to replace its Mi-25 chopper fleet with the new generation Apache choppers that have been contracted from the US under a government-to-government deal.

Last week, the US also completed delivery of the first batch of four A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to the AAF after repeated delays. The A-29 is a multi-role, fixed-wing aircraft that aims to provide the AAF with an indigenous air-to-ground capability and aerial reconnaissance capabilities.

The Super Tucanos supplement the Afghan Air Force fleet that consists of Russian Mi-35 attack and Mi-17 transport helicopters, C-130 cargo aircraft, and Cessna C-208B turboprop utility aircraft, among others.

The US Air Force is to deliver the light attack turboprops to Afghanistan under the Light Air Support (LAS) programme to bolster its fighting capabilities. Up to 30 Afghan pilots are to be trained by the US Air Force over the next three years.

Education and training

India has also pledged to train, equip and build capacity for Afghanistan's army and police. Afghanistan had earlier requested that 150 Afghan army officers receive training at Indian defence and military academies.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Kabul on December 25, 2015, he reiterated India's full support to Afghanistan for strengthening its defensive capabilities for preserving Afghanistan's unity and territorial integrity and ensuring security.

This was the PM's first visit to Afghanistan. The PM held detailed discussion with the Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, including other officials.

In a joint statement, the two leaders pointed out that the Mi-25 helicopters provided by the Indian Government to Afghanistan and their maintenance facility would address an important requirement.

The officials have agreed to increase and expand training opportunities for Afghan National Security and Defence Forces in relevant Indian institutions, based on the requirements of Afghanistan.

Reiterating India's commitment to developing capacity in education, Prime Minister Modi said the existing scheme of 1,000 scholarships for Afghan students to study in India annually would be extended by another five years beyond 2017, with the possibility of one year vocational and skill training.

The Indian government is to additionally provide 500 scholarships to children of martyrs of Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces in schools and colleges in India and Afghanistan. Around 10,000 students from Afghanistan are engaged in studies in India.

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Published on January 21, 2016
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