by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
9/22/2015 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Afghan
pilots, maintainers and instructor pilots from the 81st Fighter
Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. came to Peterson AFB for several
weeks in September for high-altitude training in the mountainous
Since the beginning of 2015, four Afghan pilots have been training with
the 81st FS to receive a thorough knowledge and application of flying
A-29B Super Tucanos, As well as the inner workings of U.S. Air Force
fighter squadrons to use the same infrastructure as they stand up their
own squadron when they get back to Afghanistan.
The 81st FS is a stateside air advisor unit with a deployed mission,
said Lt. Col. Jeff Hogan, 81st FS commander. When the first group of
Afghan pilots and maintainers finish their year-long training, the 81st
FS will send Air Force pilots and maintainers to Afghanistan for
We'll have a constant rotational presence in Afghanistan, helping mentor them as they stand up this new capability," he said.
The end result of this training is for Afghanistan to have its own air
force that can sustain itself. Hogan said the U.S. partnered with the
NATO coalition since the initial invasion and is in a good position to
help train the pilots.
"There are other nations that could have done it, but we certainly have
the capacity and the know-how on how to train our international
partners," Hogan said. "It's a core (Air Education and Training Command)
competency. We train thousands of international students a year."
The training the Afghan pilots get will help them stand up their own
sustainable fighter squadron and be able to provide aerial fire support
for their ground forces, Hogan said. To achieve that, the 81st FS is
training them on four different missions, including close air attack,
air interdiction, helicopter and convoy escort, and armed
The aircraft the pilots trained on will go with them to Afghanistan when
the pilots return home at the end of their training, said an 81st FS
instructor pilot. It will replace the old Mi-35 attack helicopter that
is nearing the end of its service life and doesn't have the capability
of the A-29.
The training so far has been at Moody Air Force Base, which has an
elevation of around 200 feet and doesn't compare to the high elevation
in Afghanistan, he said. To get the pilots more realistic training, they
came to Peterson.
As with any mechanical equipment, performance is lower at a higher
altitude, the instructor pilot said. The air is less dense and has fewer
molecules, so aircraft take longer to accelerate and it's more
difficult to get off the ground. Peterson provides the high elevation
and rising terrain for Afghan pilots to gain the necessary experience
before going back to Afghanistan.
"Peterson afforded us some great facilities," said Hogan. "We're very
thankful for the support we've received here. This is probably the place
that most closely approximated (Afghanistan) and what we were trying to
do. We received a very warm welcome and we were thankful to get that."
Hogan said the most satisfying part of this training is knowing they're
building another county's air force and the pilots are going to do well
because of the training they received.
"This airplane will allow us to truly start to step away from
Afghanistan," Hogan said. "When they can provide their own organic
fires, support their own soldiers in the field and provide them with
close air support capabilities - that will be the major turning point
that allows our country to disengage."