War on Terrorism

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

NATO Command Strengthens Afghan Air Force

By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2010 – Members of the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan are working to expand the strength and missions of the Afghan air force.

“I see where we are now in the NATO Air Training Command, as having a very good foundation, but we are getting ready to hit the accelerator pedal,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. David W. Allvin, commander, NATO Air Training Command- Afghanistan, said during a “DoDLive” Bloggers Roundtable.

Allvin, who has been leading the command, formerly called Combined Air Power Transition Force, for a little over three weeks, said he has three things he wants to focus on as the new leader: expanding operational capability, creating professionalization and improving command and control.

“We're not starting from zero as I come in to take command, but we certainly are looking to expand well beyond,” he said.

Allvin added that over the past year Afghan air force training has been primary focused on aviation skills and other training and filling crew positions.

“That's a great start,” he said. “But we all know that we're advising and training this Afghan air force to be a functioning air force. To do that you need to go beyond just being able to fly. You have to have some mission utility.”

The Afghan air force currently has close to 4,000 airmen and Allvin hopes to expand that number to just over 8,000. He also plans to expand the number of aircraft from 46 to 150.

To prepare the Afghan airmen to be part of a professional force, they are required to complete a three-month literacy course when they graduate from their basic training, Allvin said.

“They go through that before they go through some of the basic technical courses,” he said. “That really helps us out tremendously.”

Afghan airmen not only are required to possess basic literacy, but they also must have English-speaking capability, the global language of airmen, Allvin said.

To combat that challenge, he said, the command created a “Thunder Lab,” which teams Afghan lieutenants waiting for pilot training with English-speaking advisors.

“It’s really been a great success because we have a bunch of motivated, young lieutenants that we believe when they go to the States [for training], are going to have tremendous results,” he said.

Another area Allvin is focusing on is improving command and control in the Afghan air force.

“Something that we as Western air forces are used to, [is] having centralized planning and centralized management of air assets,” he said, noting the Afghan air force currently does not have that organizational capability. He said one of the issues is that requests don’t always come through a central organization and tasks weren’t always prioritized and tasked as a single air force entity, which has caused confusion in the past.

“We looked at that as an opportunity to learn and get some lessons learned from that and build in the future,” he said.

Allvin said the Afghan air force has received pledges of assistance from several NATO countries and partners.

“We currently have the Canadians on board and they're helping with the professional development and education,” Allvin said. Within a couple of weeks, he said, partners from Jordan and Portugal also will help develop curriculum and conduct some of the instruction at the school, and the Croatians are assisting with a mentoring program.

“It's really truly an expanding team effort. The synergy is just tremendous,” Allvin said.

“We think this is going to be a very, very important year,” he added.

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