The Afghan Air Force's first-ever UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters have arrived in Kandahar, reports Stars and Stripes, the first of a total of 159 Black Hawks to be supplied to the country’s military by the U.S. as part of an effort to bolster its aging helicopter fleet.
The first two Black Hawks arrived at Kandahar Air Field on Sept. 18 and will be used for training, with two more UH-60s expected to arrive by late October. The full delivery of all 159 aircraft is expected to be completed by 2023
The Black Hawks are meant to replace Afghanistan’s declining fleet of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, which it uses for troop transportation, logistics support, casualty evacuation and close-air support.
Afghan Mi-17 pilots will begin training on the Black Hawks as early as next month, in both Kandahar and at Fort Rucker in Alabama. The training could take just three months, based on Department of Defense estimates cited by Stars and Stripes.
Afghanistan’s military, much like the U.S.-led coalition, leans heavily on airpower, but the state of its helicopter fleet has proven problematic. Some 18 of its 46 Mi-17s were completely unusable, according to an Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report published in April. Due to a lack of parts and old airframes, Afghanistan’s existing Mi-17 helicopter fleet is expected to become “unsustainable” by the mid-2018, according to Stars and Stripes.
To combat this, the Pentagon requested funds from Congress in November to retrofit older Black Hawks to replace the Mi-17s. The Soviet-era Mi-17 fleet is the workhorse of the Afghan Air Force, running roughly half of all its sorties, reports Reuters.
There are some who argue that the switch — from the tried and battle-tested Mi17s, popular among their Afghan pilots, to the Black Hawk, the American military’s workhorse — is driven by politics, and that it comes at a tenuous time.
Additionally, Afghanistan’s Mi-17 pilots are familiar with the old Soviet-era standby and the Mi-17s greater load capacity makes it well suited to the mountainous terrain Afghan troops often operate.
The U.S. military bought the Mi-17s for the Afghan military to expedite the growth of its air force, but in 2013, the Pentagon halted the purchase of $1 billion in new Mi-17s, reports Stars and Stripes. And the pressure continued the next year with then-President Barack Obama issuing a restriction on business with Russian arms makers.
The plan to replace the aging fleet of Russian helos dates back to 2016, but there are concerns that the procurement and necessary training won’t come to fruition in time to be of significant help to Afghan forces stymied by a resurgent Taliban, and nascent threats from other jihadist groups in Afghanistan.
NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.
The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.
Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.
Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."