C-27s at Kabul International Airport
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 16, 2009) -- The first two of 20 planned C-27 aircraft became part of the Afghan National Army Air Corps with a ceremony Sunday at Kabul International Airport.

The dedication ceremony marked the culmination of 14 months of effort by the government of Afghanistan and the Combined Air Power Transition Force of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, a team of embedded air-power mentors who partner with the ANAAC to modernize and expand Afghanistan's military aviation capabilities.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Dawran, commander of the ANAAC, opened the ceremony by highlighting the role of the C-27 in helping the Afghan National Army achieve its ambitions for "integrity, self-sufficiency, and independence." He emphasized that the new tactical airlift capabilities afforded by the C-27 will help the ANAAC meet its responsibilities to protect Afghan society by standing against terrorism and insurgency.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said he has been looking forward to the medium airlift capabilities the new aircraft will bring to Afghanistan's security forces.

"With the delivery of the C-27, the brave and skilled pilots of the Air Corps gain the ability to conduct many of the same airlift missions done by coalition forces in defense of their country," McChrystal said.

McChrystal listed the tracking of Taliban forces, the movement of soldiers, delivery of supplies, and evacuation of wounded soldiers as essential missions that the C-27 can accomplish. He also thanked coalition organizations that facilitated the delivery of the aircraft, emphasizing its ability to support unique Afghan air missions.

"By listening to our Afghan partners and delivering a capability suited to their needs, you've helped the Air Corps make an impressive entry into the global community of airmen," McCrystal said.

The C-27's twin-engine turboprop can carry up to 44 passengers, more than 23,000 pounds of cargo and fuel, and can land on unimproved fields as short as 3,000 feet. These capabilities make the aircraft valuable in Afghanistan, whose mountainous terrain and limited road network - which is further constrained by the threat of roadside bombs - make air power critical to the mobility of its citizens, officials said.

The C-27 is equipped with a cargo rolling system for easy loading and unloading of palletized cargo. It carries litter stanchions for medical evacuation, transports heavy vehicles, and is equipped for airdrop of supplies.

As past experience in counterinsurgency warfare has shown, the ability to carry supplies, transport troops, and return wounded to medical facilities are the most important basic tasks that airplanes can accomplish, coalition officials said. That's why, they added, that they have worked with ANAAC to make the C-27 Afghanistan's first priority in acquiring newly refurbished aircraft.

Afghanistan's Minister of Defense, Abdul Rahim Wardak, closed the ceremony's remarks segment with a word of thanks for the coalition partners who financed and facilitated the $290 million initial C-27 purchase. It is, he said, "an undeniable requirement which will allow us to operate independently. This is the objective and goal of my people, my government, my president, and the international community."

Wardak pledged that Afghanistan would make the best use of the new aircraft and take care of them responsibly. He expressed gratitude for coalition efforts to revive air power in Afghanistan, and said that the government looked forward to the continuation of these vital efforts.

A C-27 log book was presented by the coalition to Maj. Gen. Dawran to signal formal delivery of the aircraft to Afghanistan. With the transfer of the log book, the hangar doors opened to reveal the C-27s to all and then the assembled guests were invited outside to admire the new aircraft.

Coalition members said they look forward to partnering with the ANAAC to accomplish the training, maintenance, and operations that will make Afghanistan's fleet of C-27s capable of autonomous missions in support of the national government.

(Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera serves as commanding general, Combined Air Power Transition Force and commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing.)