Afghan Air Force

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Afghan Air Force
د افغانستان هوائي ځواک
Emblem of the Afghan Air Force.svg
Afghan Air Force emblem
Active 1924–present
Country  Afghanistan
Allegiance Afghan Armed Forces
Branch Air Force
Role Air defense
Air warfare
Size 6800[1] personnel
Equipment 185 aircraft[2]
Commander Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak
Lt. Gen. Mohammad Dawran[3]
Roundel Afghan National Air Force roundel.svg
Ensign Flag of the Afghan Air Force.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Mi-35, A-29
Trainer C182T, C208B, L-39C, MD 530F
Transport C208B, Mi-8/17, C-130H

The Afghan Air Force (AAF; Pashto: دافغانستان هوائی ځواک ; Dari: قوای هوائی افغانستان), formerly the Afghan National Army Air Corps, is a branch of the military of Afghanistan that is responsible for air defense and air warfare.[4][5] It is divided into three wings, with the 1st Wing at Kabul, the 2nd Wing at Kandahar and the 3rd Wing south at Shindand in western Afghanistan. Lt. Gen. Mohammad Dawran serves as Chief of Staff of the Afghan Air Force[3][6] and Major General Abdul Wahab Wardak is the Afghan Air Force Commander.[7] The command center of the Afghan Air Force is located at Kabul International Airport and the Shindand Air Base in Herat Province serves as the main training area.

The Afghan Air Force was established in 1924 under the rule of King Amanullah and upgraded by King Zahir Shah in the 1960s. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union built up the AAF, first in an attempt to defeat the mujahideen and in hopes that a strong Afghan air power would preserve the pro-Soviet government of Najibullah. The AAF had over 400 military aircraft, including more than 200 Soviet-made fighter jets.[3] The collapse of Najibullah's government in 1992 and the continuation of a civil war throughout the 1990s reduced the number of Afghan aircraft to less than a dozen. During Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001, in which the Taliban government was ousted from power, only a few helicopters remained of the Afghan Air Force.

Since 2007, the US-led, international Combined Air Power Transition Force (CAPTF), which was renamed the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan (NATC-A) in 2010,[8][9] has worked to rebuild and modernize the Afghan Air Force. The CAPTF / NATC-A serves as the air component of the US-led, international Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan which is responsible for rebuilding the Afghan armed forces.[10] The AAF currently has about 100 aircraft and around 5,000 active personnel. By 2016 the NATO training mission in Afghanistan wants to raise the ranks of the AAF to 8000 and increase the air fleet to 140 aircraft which are progressively getting more advanced.[11]


The history of the Afghan air service began on 22 August 1924 as the Afghan Air Force. As early as 1921, the Soviet Union and Great Britain provided a small number of aircraft to Afghanistan's King Amanullah Khan who had been impressed with the British use of aircraft against his government in 1919. For the next decade, Soviet pilots performed the bulk of the flying of Afghan aircraft, probably about one-half of which were Polikarpov R-1s, a Soviet copy of the de Havilland DH.9A. Most Afghan aircraft were destroyed in the civil war that began in December 1928, and it was 1937 before a serious rebuilding effort began. From the late 1930s until World War Two, British Hawker Hind and Italian IMAM Ro.37 aircraft constituted the bulk of the small Afghan air service, which by 1938 amounted to about 30 planes in service.[12] The Hawker Hind remained in the Afghan inventory until 1957, and as of 2009 one former Afghan Air Force Hawker Hind still flew in the Shuttleworth Collection. In 1947, the air arm was redesignated the Royal Afghan Air Force, a title it retained until further political upheaval in 1973.[13]

MiG-15 fighters and Il-28 bombers of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in 1959.

By 1960, the Afghan air force consisted of approximately 100 combat aircraft including MiG-15 fighters, Il-28 light bombers, transports, and a few helicopters.[14] Also by that time, a small number of Afghan pilots were undergoing undergraduate pilot training in the United States; others attended training in the Soviet Union, India, and several European countries. In the 1973 "bloodless" coup, King Zahir Shah was deposed and Mohammed Daoud Khan became the country's president. During his five years in power, until the Communist coup of 1978, Daoud relied on Soviet assistance to upgrade the capabilities and increase the size of the Afghan air force, introducing newer-models of Soviet-built MiG-21 fighters and An-24 and An-26 transports. Improvements in the early-to-mid-1970s notwithstanding, the Afghan air arm remained relatively small until after the 1979–80 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While Afghanistan's air force was equipped with a large inventory – probably some 400 aircraft in the mid-1980s – many of them were manned and maintained by "advisors" from Czechoslovakia and Cuba. In many cases, the Soviets were reluctant to entrust Afghan pilots with either the latest aircraft models or high priority missions and, indeed, a number of Afghan pilots were equally reluctant to conduct air strikes against their countrymen.[15] The Afghan air force was at its strongest in the 1980s and early 1990s, producing some concern on the part of neighboring countries. The air service had at least 7,000 personnel plus 5,000 foreign advisors. At its peak, the air force had at least 240 fixed-wing combat aircraft (fighters, fighter-bombers, light bombers), 150 helicopters, and perhaps 40 or more Antonov transports of various models. Midway through the Soviet-Afghan war, one estimate of Afghan air power listed the following inventory:

Mi-17 helicopters of the AAF during the 2010 air show in Kabul.

Additionally, the Afghan air force probably operated some 40 or more transports, including the An-26, An-24, and An-2.[15] Another estimate in 1988 painted a more detailed picture of the Afghan Air Force:[19]

  • 322nd Air Regiment, Bagram Air Base, three fighter squadrons with 40 MiG-21s
  • 321st Air Regiment, Bagram Air Base, three fighter/bomber squadrons with Su-7/Su-22
  • 393rd Air Regiment, Dehdadi Air Base (Balkh), three fighter/bomber squadrons with MiG-17s
  • 355th Air Regiment, Shindand Airbase, 3 bomber squadrons with Il-28s and one fighter/bomber squadron with MiG-17s
  • 232nd Air Regiment, Kabul Airport, three helicopter squadrons with Mi-4, Mi-6, and Mi-8 with one squadron of Mi-8s detached to Shindand
  • 377th Air Regiment, Kabul Airport, four helicopter squadrons with Mi-25s and Mi-17s
  •  ? Air Regiment, Kabul Airport, two transport squadrons with An-2, An-26/30, and one VIP transport squadron with one Il-18 and 12 An-14s
  • two attack helicopter squadrons with Mi-24s at Jallalabad and Kabul
  • Air Force Academy, Kabul, with Yak-18s and L-39s
  • Air Defence Forces consisting of two SAM regiments at Kabul, an AAA Battalion at Kandahar, and a radar regiment at Kabul

After the Soviet withdrawal and the departure of foreign advisors, the air force declined in terms of operational capability. With the collapse of the Najibullah Government in 1992, the air service ceased to be a single entity, instead breaking up amongst the different mujahideen factions in the ongoing civil war. By the end of the 1990s, the military of the Taliban maintained five supersonic MIG-21MFs and 10 Sukhoi-22 fighter-bombers.[20] They also held six Mil Mi-8 helicopters, five Mi-35s, five L-39Cs, six An-12s, 25 An-26s, a dozen An-24/32s, a IL-18, and a Yakovlev.[21] The Afghan Northern Alliance/United Front operated a small number of helicopters and transports and a few other aircraft for which it depended on assistance from neighboring Tajikistan. With the breakdown of logistical systems, the cannibalization of surviving airframes was widespread. The US/Coalition operations in the fall of 2001 destroyed most of the remaining Afghan aircraft. It was 2005 before a US-led, international effort began to rebuild the Afghan air service; since 2007, the pace has increased significantly under the auspices of the Combined Air Power Transition Force.[22]

Russian attack helicopters and mujahideen

The Mil Mi-24 and Mi-35 (export model) attack helicopters have a long history in Afghanistan. The aircraft was operated extensively during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, mainly for attacking Afghan mujahideen fighters. Early in the war, the only anti-air weapons of the mujahideen were Soviet made shoulder-launched, heat-seeking SAMs and American Redeye, which had either been captured from the Soviets or their Afghan allies or were supplied from Western sources. Many of them came from stocks the Israelis had captured during their wars with Soviet client states in the Middle East. Owing to a combination of the limited capabilities of these early types of missiles, poor training and poor material condition of the missiles, they were not particularly effective.[23]

Beginning in 1986, the US supplied the mujahideen with its state-of-the-art heat-seeking missile, the Stinger, which the Afghans employed with devastating effect. In the first use of the Stinger in Afghanistan, mujahid fighters downed three of eight unsuspecting Soviet Mi-24 Hinds as they approached the airfield at Jalalabad on a late September afternoon. Some scholars point to that event in 1986 as the turning point in the war. Moreover, for most of the remainder of the war when Stingers were known to be present, Soviet and Afghan aircraft elected to remain at higher altitudes where they were less vulnerable to the missile, but also less effective in ground attacks. Although employed extensively throughout the war as a ground attack platform, the Hind suffered from a weak tail boom and was found to be underpowered for some missions it was called upon to perform in the mountains of Afghanistan, where high density altitude is especially problematic for rotary-wing aircraft.[24]

Overall, the Hind proved effective and very reliable, earning the respect of both Soviet and Afghan pilots as well as ordinary Afghans throughout the country. The mujahideen nicknamed the Mi-24 the "Devil's Chariot" due to its notorious reputation. Since the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, the civil war of the 1990s, and the post-11 September 2001 US/Coalition operations, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is again operating the Hind, the export version of which is designated the Mi-35. As of August 2009, the Mi-35 provided the AAF's only ground attack capability and achieved initial operational capability.[25]

Recent history

Member of the AAF helicopter crew

For the first time in over two decades Afghanistan has begun training new pilots. In January 2008, President Hamid Karzai said that his country's air force had been reborn after inaugurating its new headquarters at Kabul International Airport freshly equipped with new aircraft. The military had received 26 new and refurbished aircraft, including Czech-donated helicopter gunships. With United States funding the Afghan government had also acquired transport helicopters and a number of Ukrainian military planes. The newly boosted air force remained preliminary a formal part of the army.[26] Under a partnering relationship between the US-led, international NATO Air Training Command (NATC-A) and the AAF, Afghan air power is being rebuilt on several fronts:

Firefighting students at the Pohantoon-e-Hawayee (Air University)
2nd Lt. Niloofar Rhmani stands alongside the other four graduates of undergraduate pilot training just prior to receiving their pilot wings at a ceremony May 14, 2013, at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan. Rhmani made history May 14, 2013, when she became the first female to successfully complete undergraduate pilot training and earn the status of pilot in more than 30 years. She will continue her service as she joins the Kabul Air Wing as a Cessna 208 pilot.

The recently opened North Kabul International Airport cantonment area includes the new headquarters for the Afghan Air Force and 201st Kabul Air Wing. The wing's three operational squadrons, one fixed-wing, one rotary-wing, and the Presidential Airlift Squadron, are housed there.[citation needed] The cantonment area includes state-of-the-art hangars as well as operations, logistics, billeting, dining, and recreational facilities. Additionally, extensive AAF facilities are in-progress at Kandahar International Airport.

A number of Afghan pilots and pilot-candidates traveled to the United States beginning in May 2009 for English language training, to be followed by instrument training for the pilots and undergraduate pilot training for the pilot-candidates. This was the start of an initiative that within the next several years should produce a small cadre of seasoned, instrument-rated Afghan Air Force pilots as well as a larger number of younger, well-trained pilots who will serve as the backbone of the Afghan air service for the next generation. Other NATC-A-led programs include English language and technical courses for AAF personnel in various specialties including aircraft maintenance, logistics, communications, and engineering. As of June 2009, the Air Force numbered about 2,400 personnel, with a planned strength of 7,400 members within several years.[27]

In late 2009, the AAF began receiving refurbished former Italian military G-222 tactical transports and Mi-17V5 Hip transport helicopters. In June 2010 the Afghan National Army Air Corps was officially renamed back to the Afghan Air Force by order of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.[5] Also in the same year, a number of female trainers completed their courses and were commissioned as lieutenants. Many more are being trained as the number of the AAF increases.

As of March 2011, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) had 44 rotary-wing and 13 fixed-wing aircraft in serviceable condition. By the end of 2011, the AAF had 16 G-222s (on loan from the U.S government) and 35 of the new Hips (Mi-8) while continuing to operate the older Mi-17s and retiring the An-32 fleet. Further growth of the AAF may depend on decisions yet to be made regarding the size of the Afghan National Army which, in turn, will determine AAF requirements. In a country of rugged terrain possessing limited ground transportation options, the Afghan armed forces depends heavily upon AAF fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft for airlift of soldiers and supplies between Corps operating locations, medical and casualty evacuation, and transport of human remains. The Afghan government also relied on the AAF for transportation of election materials during the 2009 presidential election. Although presently the Mi-35s provide a ground attack capability, a decision is expected soon on the purchase of a light attack/trainer fixed-wing aircraft for the AAF. It was announced in October 2011 that the military of Afghanistan would be provided with 145 multi-type aircraft and 21 helicopters.[28] By the end of 2011, the Afghan Air Force had a total of 4,900 airmen and personnel.


As of June 2012, the Afghan Air Force has 96 military aircraft and approximately 5,600 personnel. There are three Afghan Air Force wings, one each in Kabul (1st Wing), Kandahar (2nd Wing) and Shindand (3rd Wing).[29] Abdul Raziq Sherzai, an Afghan Militia Forces commander who captured the Kandahar air base, was made a major general and commander of the Kandahar Air Wing.[30] Abdul Raziq Sherzai is the brother of Nangarhar Province province governor Gul Agha Sherzai.[31]


By 2016 the Afghan Air force is to expand to 8,000 personal and will operate 145 aircraft.[32] To that end there has been continuing expansion in infrastructure, training and maintenance facilities. The US has also been purchasing modern equipment and aircraft including Russian Mi-17 helicopters. Significant investment has also gone into purchasing modern training aircraft such as MD 500 helicopters and fixed-wing Cessna 182 and 208 planes.

In 2013 Afghanistan sent India a large wish-list of heavy weapons which included one Antonov An-32 and two Squadrons of Mil Mi-17 and Mil Mi-35 helicopters.[33] This deal was initially put on hold due to fears of antagonizing regional rival Pakistan, but in 2014 India reached a compromise where instead of directly supplying the heavy weapons it would instead pay Russia to deliver them instead. This deal includes Arms, ammo and the refurbishment of weapon systems and aircraft left behind by the Soviets.[34][35]

On 22 December 2015 it is reported in Indian media that India finally sent 1 of the 4 earlier promised Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter to Afghanistan just before Indian Prime minister Modi visit to the nation. remaining 3 helicopters will be transferred within months. Despite Pakistans resistance against Indian involvement in Afghanistan, this is the first time that India sending offensive military hardware to that country. This transfer of military equipment to Afghanistan opens door for India to further support to Afghanistan military with more offensive military equipment.

Fixed-wing fighter/trainer

Currently the US is looking to finalize the re-tendering process for 20 attack aircraft that can also be used for training and to provide the Army with close air support. The two contenders are the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano and the Beechcraft AT-6. Embraer won the previous contract but the tendering process was cancelled after it was discovered that proper procedures were not followed. A winner for the new contract was expected in June 2013 with first deliveries expected to begin in the third quarter of 2014, about 15 months after originally planned.[36][37] The Super Tucano was declared the winner of the contract again in 2013.[38] The contract will be completed by Sierra Nevada Corp. for 20 A-29 Super Tucanos with an expected delivery date of between December 2015 and 2018.[39][40]

According to the Wall Street Journal, the first 10 will be stationed at Shindand Air Base, in western Afghanistan. The other 10 are to go to Kandahar Airfield.[41]

On December 18, the first Embraer A-29 Super Tucano pilots of the 81st Fighter Squadron graduated at Moody Air Force Base, USA. Col. John Nichols, the 14th Flying Training Wing Commander said of the pilots, "The extraordinary dedication of these pilots and the sacrifices these graduates have made will help establish a secure, stable and unified country,". "They are enabling the future of Afghanistan, a future that will be decided by the Afghans themselves." The pilot graduates and the remaining 22 student pilots will receive further, advisory support in Afghanistan.[42]

First Afghan Super Tucanos

The first four aircraft arrived in Afghanistan in January 2016, with a further four due before the end of 2016.

Afghan Air Force Embraer A-29 Super Tucano (YA-1406)

Combat ready Afghan A-29 pilots graduated from training at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia returned to Afghanistan to represent the first of a total of 30 pilots trained by the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody. A fleet of 20 A-29's will be in place by 2018, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The Pentagon purchased the Super Tucanos in a $427 million contract with Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer, with the aircraft produced at Embraer's facility in Jacksonville, Florida.[43] Pilot training is undertaken by the U.S. Air Force's 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The Afghan Air Force’s new fixed-wing Embraer/Sierra Nevada A-29 Super Tucano could soon make its combat debut after the first four aircraft arrived at Hamid Karzai International Airport on January 15th, 2016.

Afghan Air Force Embraer A-29 Super Tucano (YA-1407)


Air transport

The U.S. Navy equipped the Afghan Air Force with refurbished AN-32 transport aircraft during initial reconstruction efforts.[45] These aircraft augmented an existing fleet of AN-32 and AN-26 aircraft. The AN-32 was retired on 17 June 2011 in a push to move operations over to the C27 program but like the L-39, it is still kept in ready status by the Afghan Air Force.[46]

The U.S. Air Force purchased the G-222, similar to the USAF C-27A (the C-27A is a G-222 modified by the U.S. Air Force to meet U.S. flight standards), to move away from Soviet era aircraft. A total of 20 former Italian military G-222s were purchased with the intent of providing the Afghan Air Force a fleet that would last 10 years. However the prime contractor in the refurbishment and supply of the planes, Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica S.p.A., was unable to provide adequate maintenance support for the aircraft. As a result, the majority of the fleet at any time was grounded for safety of flight issues (including a period where the entire fleet was grounded for over 6 months). The US military worked over the course of three years with Alenia North America to get the fleet fully operational.[47]

Part of the issues with supplying the G-222 came about from ownership. The G-222 program included an initial parts supply and training contract for the Afghan Air Force. Upon arrival of the first two aircraft in November 2009, Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera,[48] commanding general, Combined Air Power Transition Force and commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing announced that the aircraft were part of the Afghan National Army Air Corps in a ceremony at Kabul International Airport.[49] The contract for the aircraft, a 14-month effort, had the U.S. government as the end user of the aircraft due to an Italian arms embargo with Afghanistan. The U.S. declaration that the C-27 was now an Afghan Air Force asset effectively violated international law and the Italian government enforced the embargo and stopped shipment of contracted supplies to Afghanistan. This put the U.S. government in a dilemma since the $290 million contract was funded through the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) which required, by U.S. law, that all military materials purchased be turned over to the Afghan government.[50]

The G-222 was eventually determined to be a U.S. owned asset utilized by the Afghan Air Force with intent to turn over the asset in the future (assuming the Italian embargo would at some point be lifted or that enough supplies could be stock piled to take the aircraft through its expected 10-year service life), but this determination was not immediate. This caused a delay of contracted goods beyond the time frame of the initial contract through no fault of the contractor, and made it necessary for the U.S. government to enter into a second more costly maintenance contract with Alenia North America to get aircraft operational. Since the G-222 aircraft purchased still had Italian military air worthiness certificates controlled by the company, Alenia North America effectively monopolized the entire supply chain making fair competition non-existent. This second contract inflated the total program cost to over $600 million, and it would have cost over $1.2 billion had the U.S. opted to extend the contract up to 10 years.[51]

In December 2012 the U.S. Air Force announced that it was terminating the G-222 contract with Alenia North America citing that the contractor failed to meet their legal obligations and announced that the Afghan Air Force would be receiving four C-130 transport aircraft (expected in 2013).[52] The G-222 program legacy to the C-130 is that the cockpit and cargo compartment configurations of the G-222 are similar to that of a C-130H. The G-222 simulator program, contracted to Fidelity Technologies Corporation, produced three G-222 simulators: one Fuselage Load Trainer (cargo compartment), one Flight Training Device (cockpit), and one Basic Aircraft Training Device (cockpit).[53] These training devices were built to FAA standards from two derelict U.S. Air Force C-27A aircraft and allowed the Afghan Air Force to continue to train while the G-222 fleet was effectively out of service for over a year, making transition to the C-130 a feasible alternative.


A Mi-17 from the Afghan Air Force takes off from Kabul International Airport.

The total number of MI-17 helicopters currently in service or coming into service with the Afghan Air Force is unclear. The US has purchased a number of new MI-17s for the AAF from Russia and from other nations such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There were also some existing MI-17s in the country before the invasion and subsequent formation of the air force. It has also been reported that at least 2 MI-17 have crashed.[54]

The most recent acquisition of MI-17s is for 21 airframes, spare parts and training. These all include western avionics. As of June 2012, eighteen of these have been delivered and the remaining three are to be supplied by the end of June 2012. As part of this contract there is also an option for another twelve MI-17s, raising this contract to 33.[55][56] They are modified in the UAE after being delivered to the US Army to fit Afghan Air Force requirements better before being sent to Afghanistan.

The Afghan Air Force has two MI-17v5 Flight Training Devices, one MI-17v5 Basic Aircraft Training Device, and one MI-17 Cockpit Procedure Trainer built by Fidelity Technologies Corporation.[53]

At current estimates, the air force will be in possession of 46 MI-17 helicopters by June 2012, with an additional 10 to be delivered by 2016.[55][56]

As of April 13, 2013, the United States was planning the purchase of an additional 30 MI-17v5 Helicopters.[57][58] While it is still unclear how many MI-17 the AAF is currently in possession of and how many are currently on order this latest contract could bring total numbers to between 65-75 MI-17 helicopters within a few years. On November 13, 2013 future purchase plans were canceled.[59]


Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Luke Meldon explains the components of an AAF C-27 Spartan to Thunder Lab students.

Future training to be undertaken at the Shindand air wing at Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan. The base which has been refurbished and expanded by ISAF which tripled its size. A new 1.3 mile training runway was to begin construction in 2012[60] but has been canceled. The seven candidates are all graduates of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan of Initial Officer Training held in the United Kingdom and have also undertaken English language training in the Kabul English Language Training Center. Students will be trained in both fixed-wing aircraft, namely the Cessna 182T and 208B and in rotary wing aircraft, the MD 530F.[61] About 6 MD 530F helicopters were delivered to Shindand in late 2011. The initial 6 helicopters have completed acceptance flights and can now be used to begin training Afghan Pilots,[62] although one was destroyed in 2013 by an IED.[63] The four-year contract could see as many as 54 other helicopters being supplied to the AAF.[64]

With the delivery of 20 Advanced fixed-wing light support aircraft, the A-29 Super Tucano Afghan pilots will have to undergo further training. This will significantly increase the level of knowledge and experience in the air force.[65]


See full article: List of Afghan Air Force aircraft

The Afghan Air Force (AAF) deteriorated following the collapse of Najibullah's government in 1992, and it was nearly eliminated by US/Coalition air strikes during Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001. The new NATO-assembled Afghan Air Force has been gradually increasing its aircraft inventory, personnel, and operational capabilities since at least 2007. The last addition of aircraft was made in December 2011, which included 12 trainers and 6 helicopters from the United States.[66]

Current inventory

An Afghan Air Corps Mi-17 helicopter takes off on a mission
Afghan MD 530F firing off its gun pods
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Embraer A-29 Brazil COIN 10[2] 10 on order
Boeing 727 United States VIP transport 3 being acquired from Ariana Afghan Airlines[67]
C-130 Hercules United States transport C-130H 4[2]
Pilatus PC-12 Switzerland transport / utility PC-12NG 17[2] in use with Afghan Special Forces
Cessna 208 United States transport / utility 25[2]
Mil Mi-17 Russia utility Mi-8/17 97[2] 55 are in use with Afghan Special Forces
Mil Mi-24 Russia attack Mi-35 7[2]
Bell UH-1 United States utility UH-1H 10[2]
MD 500 United States light attack / training MD 530F 16 12 on order[68]
HAL Cheetah India utility / training 3 [2]


Base Operator Description
Kabul International Airport (OAKB) ISAF (Belgian Army) It is a dual-use airport, civilian and military, the primary hub for international civilian flights. It serves as the home of the AAF 1st Wing and includes state-of-the-art hangar facilities, as well as operations, logistics, billeting, dining, and recreational facilities. It is also used by ISAF and the US.
Kandahar International Airport (OAKN) ISAF (U.S. Air Force) Built by the US around 1960, it is also a dual-use airport serving civilian traffic to Kandahar and military support for the southern and central portions of the country. It is the home of AAF 2nd Wing. Kandahar has been a major center for American and Canadian forces and in mid-2009 underwent a major build-up of US/Coalition forces.
Shindand Air Base (OASD) Afghan Air Force/U.S. Air Force Home to the AAF 3rd Wing, it is the second largest military air base in the country, located just south of Herat with significant military aircraft shelters and facilities. Its location made it a prime candidate as a training base for the AAF.
Herat International Airport (OAHR) U.S. Air Force It is the primary civil airport for the western portion of the country, but also houses military aircraft.
Camp Marmal (OAMS) ISAF (German Army) / Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation It is a dual-use airport serving the northern and central portions of the country. A small American contingent has been based there.
Camp Bastion (OAZI) Afghan Armed Forces Located northwest of Lashkar Gah, with 3500m concrete/asphalt. It is a dual-use airport serving Helmand Province and nearby areas. U.S. Camp Leatherneck is located next to the airport.
Bagram Airfield (OAIX) U.S. Air Force Bagram is the largest all military air base in Afghanistan. It is currently a primary center for United States and allied forces for cargo, helicopter, and support flights. Built in the 1950s, it has a 3,000-meter runway capable of handling heavy bomber and cargo aircraft.

A number of smaller airfields exist in the country, including:

City served Province ICAO IATA Airport name Runway Elev. (m)
 Major domestic airports
Jalalabad Nangarhar OAJL JAA Jalalabad Airport 13/31: 2218 x 45 m, Asphalt 553
Kunduz Kunduz OAUZ UND Kunduz Airport 11/29: 2007 x 45 m, Asphalt 448
 Regional domestic airports
Bamyan Bamyan OABN BIN Bamyan Airport 07/25: 2595 x 23 m, Gravel 2591
Lashkar Gah Helmand Bost Airport 01/19: 2,300 x 43 m, Asphalt 775
Chaghcharan Ghor OACC CCN Chaghcharan Airport 06/24: 1524 x 18 m, Gravel 2276
Darwaz OADZ DAZ Darwaz Airport 09/27: 654 x 32 m, Gravel 1533
Fayzabad Badakhshan OAFZ FBD Fayzabad Airport 18/36: 1691 x 27 m, PSP 1171
Farah Farah OAFR FAH Farah Airport 15/33: 2042 x 21 m, Gravel 692
Khost Khost OAKS KHT Khost Airfield 06/24: 2684 x 105 m, Gravel 1172
Khwahan Badakhshan OAHN KWH Khwahan Airport ??/??: 671 x ? m, Gravel 980
Koran va Monjan OARZ KUR Razer Airport ??/??: 884 x ? m, Gravel ?
Maymana Faryab OAMN MMZ Maymana Airport 14/32: 1287 x 18 m, Gravel 820
Qala i Naw Badghis OAQN LQN Qala i Naw Airport 04/22: 1158 x 18 m, Asphalt 905
Sheberghan Jowzjan OASG Sheberghan Airport 06L/24R: 2621 x 24, Asphalt
06R/24L: 2115 x 30, Gravel
Sheghnan Badakhshan OASN SGA Sheghnan Airport 16/34: 803 x 30 m, Gravel 2042
Taloqan Takhar OATQ TQN Taloqan Airport 16/34: 1574 x 35 m, Gravel 816
Tarin Kowt Uruzgan OATN TII Tarin Kowt Airport 10/28: 1658 x 61 m, Gravel 1350
Zaranj Nimruz OAZJ ZAJ Zaranj Airport 16/34: 2320 x 47 m, Gravel 479
Sardeh Band OADS SBF Sardeh Band Airport 02/20: 2104 m, Gravel 2125


During its first incarnation, Afghan aircraft carried simple black and white depictions of the Muslim arms of Afghanistan, with the inscription 'God is great' on the underside of the wings. The Afghan flag was possibly used as well. Afghanistan adopted a black, red, and green flag after the 1929 revolt, and when the air force was given planes again in 1937, it placed this flag on the rudder, and adopted wing and fuselage roundels based on the three colors.

The Royal Afghan Air Force retained the roundels until adopting a new style in 1967, with a unique insignia consisting of a tri-color triangle using the national colors upon a white disc, on which was inscribed with Arabic lettering forming various phrases. This roundel was placed on the rudder in place of the flag. This remained in use after the overthrow of the monarchy until the Russian invasion in 1979, when a new insignia of a red disc with yellow inscriptions was adopted. This was short-lived however, as in 1983, a more Soviet-standard red star on a white disc ringed in black, red, and green was adopted. These were maintained until after the Soviet departure.

Upon the departure of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, and the fall of the communist government, a return to the triangle insignia was noted, although markings varied depending on the ownership of the aircraft.

See also


  1. "Afghanistan receives another C-130 aircraft from US". khaama Press. Sep 24, 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 "World Air Forces 2016 pg. 11". Flightglobal Insight. 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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