The Afghan Air Force (AAF) took delivery of five more MD530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) reports. The five light gunships arrived at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on July 16, 2016, via heavy transport aircraft from a USAF base in the United States.
“The MD-530s were delivered to the Afghan air force increasing their fleet from 18 to 23. Members of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/Train, Advise, Assist Command – Air (TAAC-Air), AAF personnel, contractors, and the McChord based crew helped unload the Cayuse Warriors upon arrival,” according to a USAF statement.
The new helicopters are capable of firing rockets or .50-caliber machine guns. Speaking on the occasion of the delivery of five separate U.S.-made MD530F Cayuse Warrior aircraft in June, the commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Ashford, said:
These five latest (MD-530s) have the capability to fire rockets or .50-caliber machine guns and sighting systems that aren’t on the previously-delivered helicopters. We are also getting kits to modify the existing 13 to be able to support guns and rockets, but these five will be the first with both capabilities in service here.
As I explained in a previous article (See: “Afghan Air Force Gets 5 New Attack Helicopters”):
The new sighting systems close a critical capability gap of the MD-530 gunships in service with the AAF. As I noted in a January 2016 piece for The Diplomat Magazine, I personally witnessed two MD-530s in action that lacked proper gun sights for their two .50 caliber machine guns. The two helicopters periodically appeared on the battlefield, but had obvious difficulties locating and engaging enemy fighters.
The new helicopters are all with a new so-called Enhanced Mission Equipment Package (EMEP), which includes:
- Rhode & Schwarz M3AR tactical radio communications solution
- Aviatech tactical communication antennas
- DillonAero Mission Configurable Aircraft System (MCAS) and fixed-forward sighting system
- Kinetic Defense ballistic armor panels
- FN HMP400 .50 caliber gun pods from FN Herstal
- 2.75” rocket capability
The United States has not been the only recent supplier of attack helicopters to the AAF. As The Diplomat reported in February, India transferred three Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan in January 2016. The Mi-25 is a variant of the Mi-24, the export version of the Russian-made Mi-35M gunship. Moscow and Kabul are in talks over the sale of an unknown number of Russian-made Mi-35 (likely the M or “Hind E” variant) combat helicopters.