Afghan air force advances battlefield support tactics

By on Monday, January 28th, 2013

The commanders of the Afghan air force and NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan signed two operational decrees Jan. 23, implementing procedures to improve air response to Afghan battlefield casualties by the AAF’s new Cessna C-208 Caravan fleet and its Mi-17 helicopters.

The decrees address the high-priority casualty evacuations and the dignified, culturally-appropriate transfer of fallen members of Afghan National Security Forces. The signings took place in the NATC-A headquarters at the Kabul, International Airport.

“These air support missions are critical to campaign success, augmenting ground CASEVAC resources when needed,” emphasized Brig. Gen. Steven Shepro, the NATC-A commander. “To improve the effectiveness of these missions, the AAF and NATC-A team have accelerated the delivery, configuration and initial operating capability of the C-208 fleet in a matter of months.”

The decree initiatives instruct aircrew and direct streamlined command, control and communication across security organizations. The AAF’s primary unit for managing flying missions is the Afghan Air Force Command and Control Center. According to the NATC-A Director of Operations, Col. Reginald Smith, the AAF has transferred 146 patients for continued medical care in the last three months of 2012. The primary AAF aircraft used for casualty movements have been Mi-17s, C-27A Spartans and Cessna 208B.

“The ACCC functions to task AAF units and aircraft to conduct troop movement, resupply and equipment logistics along with the movement of the injured and fallen,” said Smith. “The ACCC works in coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Defense to prioritize and task missions each day according to the position and availability of aircraft.”

Current C-208 seating configurations accommodate up to eight ambulatory patients, but modifications to transport four litter patients along with two additional ambulatory patients are in progress, according to NATC-A medical personnel.

“The AAF’s recent progress in these priority missions has been significant,” Shepro said. “Three months ago, the air CASEVAC process would have taken over 24 hours. Today, response times average under five hours from battlefield request to hospital arrival — and are increasingly Afghan-planned, coordinated and executed with minimal adviser input.”

Air response and capability continues to improve, Shepro said. Over the last three months, the AAF air supply to the six fielded Afghan Army Corps has comprised more than 570 missions, 370,000 pounds of cargo and 5,400 passengers.

“The Afghan coalition team has a clear strategy for 2013 mission success and growth of the AAF’s quantity and quality,” Shepro said. “These operational decrees provide joint cohesion, direction and motivation to improve air support to Afghan National Security Forces and enhance campaign success.”

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