The US has delivered two C-130H Hercules military transport aircraft to the Afghanistan Air Force (AFF) during a formal ceremony at the Kabul International Airport (IAP) in Afghanistan.
The aircraft is the first of four second-hand US Air Force (USAF) aircraft Afghanistan is slated to receive to reconstitute the fixed-wing medium transport capability it lost due to the axing of its Alenia Aermacchi G222/C-27A cargo fleet, early this year.
Delivery of the aircraft will boost Afghanistan’s military capability as NATO forces prepare to withdraw and they will be used transport soldiers around the country along with their equipment and supplies.
International Security Assistance Force commander general Joseph Dunford was quoted by AFP as saying that the aircraft are proof of Afghanistan’s expanding military strength that will be critical for stability after completion of NATO combat missions next year.
"We should be optimistic about the future when we look at these two new C-130s that will join a fleet of growing and increasingly capable aircraft," Dunford said.
Afghanistan defence minister Bismillah Mohammadi said, "These aircraft have been successfully used in Afghanistan by our NATO allies, we know they will help us a lot."
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The aircraft will initially be operated by both Afghan and Nato Air Training Command-Afghanistan advisors for the first two years, until the air force is trained and fully ready to assume the responsibility itself.
Delivery of the remaining two C-130H aircraft is scheduled to take place in 2014.
Afghanistan currently operates a fleet of around 45 helicopters and few small aircraft to counter the Taliban insurgency and evacuate casualties from the battlefield, according to the news agency.
Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the C-130 Hercules is designed to support airborne assault, search-and-rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting missions worldwide.
The aircraft is currently operational with the air forces of Australia, Indonesia, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Norway, Qatar, the US and the UK.
Image: The US delivered two surplus C-130H transport aircraft to the Afghanistan Air Force. Photo: courtesy of Brad Fallin.