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UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters


The United States decided to field the Sirkorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). The first of these highly advanced utility helicopters were delivered in September 2017. The current utility / cargo helicopter used by the AAF is the Mi-17. These Russian helicopters have performed well and are well suited for the Afghanistan environment . . .  however, political considerations have forced the U.S. military to opt for the more expensive and complicated UH-60.

Pilot Training. The UH-60 is a complicated flying machine and it will time some time to re-train current Afghan helicopter pilots and select and train new helicopter pilots for this aircraft. The pilot training will take place at Fort Rucker, Alabama and Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Maintenance. The repair and maintenance of the Black Hawk is much more complicated than the Mi-17. It is doubtful that the AAF can select and train sufficient mechanics and maintenance personnel to properly maintain the Black Hawks. For the next few years the Afghans will rely on U.S. funding of contract maintenance services to keep these aircraft in the air.

Numbers of Black Hawks. The AAF will receive 159 Black Hawks. The choppers are former US Army helicopters that are being upgraded and refurbished prior to delivery to Afghanistan. The full delivery of all 159 aircraft should be completed by 2023.

UPDATE: According to a January 2020 news report the U.S. military is reducing the number of UH-60 Black Hawks it plans to provide Afghan forces from 159 to 53 - a two-thirds cut. [1]

Mission of AAF's Black Hawks. The aircraft will be used for logistics support, casualty evacuation, close air support, aerial reconnaissance, and troop transportation.

Political Considerations. Unfortunately, the Mi-17 is the perferred helicopter for the Afghans. The Afghan Air Force has used the Mi-17 for decades. The choppers greater lift capacitiy and ability to fly in the high mountainous terrain of Afghanistan puts it ahead of the Black Hawk in many critical areas.

Recent News Reports

August 23, 2019. The Afghan UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter program is having some difficulties. Challenges include a shortage of qualified pilots, mismanagement of training programs, and absence of an adequate maintenance training program, and more. The U.S. Congress is the source of the problems with the Afghan Air Force UH-60 program. See "Congress Will Get the Afghan Air Force It Asked For", Real Clear Defense.

May 9, 2018. "Afghan pilots conduct first operation with Black Hawks a day after graduation", Khaama Press.

March 24, 2018. "Afghan Air Force must get its new Black Hawks ready", Stars and Stripes.

March 24, 2018. "Afghan UH-60 Black Hawks will be mission ready this summer", RS HQs (DVIDS). Article describes the training program for the Black Hawk pilots of the AAF.

January 29, 2018. "Blackhawks Threaten to Undermine Afghan  Air Force Development", Real Clear Defense. Alexandra Gutowski, a senior miltary affairs analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes on why the UH-60 is a bad aircraft for Afghanistan.

January 21, 2018. "Overpriced Afghanistan helicopter upgrades amount to a subsidy for contractors", The Hill.

January 17, 2018. "A New Platform and a New Plan for the Afghan Air Force", by Abdul Rahmani and John McCain, Small Wars Journal. An Afghan and U.S. aviator try to sell us on the benefits of replacing the AAF's Mi-17s with UH-60s.

December 18, 2017. "Afghanistan's Rebuilt UH-60s Could Actually Hurt Its Warfighting Ability in the Near Term", by Joseph Trevithick, The WarZone. Moving pilots from the Mi-17 to the UH-60 will hurt the use of Mi-17s.

November 20, 2017. "First Afghan UH-60 pilots graduate", DVIDS. Six Afghan Air Force members became the first ever UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots after graduation from Aircraft Qualification Training in late November 2017.

November 12, 2017. "U.S. wants to build 'tsunami of air power' in Afghanistan, but impact is years away", The Washington Post. Pamela Constable looks at the narrative of Resolute Support Hqs on the UH-60 Black Hawk and how that squares with reality.


[1] For the cut in Black Hawks to the AAF see "US cuts number of Black Hawks to Afghanistan by two-thirds", Military Times, Janaury 28, 2020.


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