Afghan Air Force MD-530 helicopters made a successful combat debut against insurgents in Nangarhar Province as Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue clearing the districts of Khogyani, Sherzad and Hisarak.

The MD-530 Warrior, or “Jengi” in Dari, is the newest in the Afghan Air Force’s arsenal, providing air power to support the ANDSF. The “Jengi” is designed for high altitude and hot weather operations.

“The addition of armed MD-530s to the Afghan Air Force is pivotal following the January 2015 reduction in coalition airpower,” said Capt. Cory Fale, helicopter pilot and MD-530 advisor at Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air). “It was great seeing the pride beaming from the Afghan aircrews as they climbed out of their helicopters from their first combat mission.”

Fale, a UH-1N Huey helicopter pilot from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, said his role as a TAAC-Air advisor during operations was to assist with planning, mitigate risk, debrief aircrews and coordinate with TAAC-East advisors in support of the AAF and ANDSF missions.

“The MD-530 was the insurgent’s number one concern in Nangarhar,” he said.

The delivery of the first six armed MD-530 helicopters occurred in March 2015. By early 2016, the AAF will have 16 in their inventory.

The MD-530 is a close-air attack aircraft. Adding to the growing Afghan Air Force, it provides critical offensive air-to-ground capability. Each MD-530 is armed with two HMP 400 .50-caliber machine gun pods, which enables Afghan pilots to effectively engage the enemy.

To accommodate the extra weight of the equipment, the helicopters were upgraded with high-capacity landing gear, allowing take-off and landing with a maximum weight of 3,750 pound (1,700 kg) through the incorporation of jettisonable external stores.

In coordination with Afghan Air Liaison Officers embedded with ANDSF, “Jengi” pilots can bring firepower to bear on the enemies of the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Fale said.

“The MD-530 is highly maneuverable and makes for a very small target,” he said. “The helicopter, in conjunction with coalition trained Afghan aircrews, brings the ANDSF the capability to execute reconnaissance, security, escort, close air attack, and aerial interdiction missions.”