Arizona-based U.S. defense contractor MD Helicopters, Inc., announced the delivery of another batch of five MD-530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) on November 22. According to a press statement, the light attack helicopters were delivered to Kandahar via a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on October 27 and reassembled for active service within ten days.
The five MD-530Fs are part of a follow-on batch of 30 helicopters ordered by the U.S. Army under a wider $1.4 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract issued in September 2017.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the 2017 contract entails the “procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance” by September 2022.
With the latest shipment, “MD Helicopters has successfully met all requirements of IDIQ [Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contracts] Delivery Order 1, and the number of MD 530F training and combat aircraft delivered to the Afghan Air Force has reached 60,” according to a company press release.
There are currently around 50 MD-530Fs operationally deployed by the AAF in Afghanistan. Some AAF pilots have criticized the size and capabilities of the helicopters in the past.
All MD-530F helicopters currently in service with the AAF are equipped with a so-called Enhanced Mission Equipment Package (EMEP) that includes a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System (MCAS) weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde & Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods, according to MD Helicopters, Inc.
The next MD-530F batch will consist of 24 helicopters, the company said on November 22.
In October, the AAF also took delivery of the last two of four retrofitted Mi-24V attack helicopters from India. New Delhi delivered the first two Mi-24Vs in May earlier this year. As I explained previously:
The Indian government had delivered a total of four Mi-25 (Mi-24D) helicopters and three HAL Cheetah light utility helicopters to the AAF by the end of 2016.
All seven Indian-supplied helicopters, in addition to five Mi-35 helicopters supplied by the Czech Republic in 2008, however, have been grounded due to missing spare parts and technical problems.
To bridge the air power capability gap, Afghanistan, Belarus, and India signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding regarding the purchase of the four Mi-24Vs in 2018, with the Indian government covering all expenses related to the procurement.
The AAF also deploys Embraer-Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for strike missions.