British helicopter crews support Afghan elections in joint ISAF mission

British Lynx crews from the Joint Heli­copter Force (Afghanistan), in part­ner­ship with their US col­leagues and Afghan pilots from the Afghan Air Force (AAF), have been trans­port­ing bal­lot box­es, mate­r­i­al and per­son­nel to the town of Musa Qal’ah in sup­port of the Afghan elec­tions.

A Lynx helicopter from the Army Air Corps acts as an escort for an Afghan Air Force Mi-17 helicopter
A Lynx heli­copter from the Army Air Corps acts as an escort for an Afghan Air Force Mi-17 heli­copter
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Just as coali­tion forces on the ground reg­u­lar­ly con­duct joint patrolling, AAF per­son­nel from the Kan­da­har detach­ment using Mi-17 heli­copters have been train­ing with instruc­tors from the 441st Air Expe­di­tionary Advi­so­ry Squadron of the Unit­ed States Air Force to con­duct mis­sions across Helmand. 

British Lynx Mk9A crews have been sup­port­ing these oper­a­tions by pro­vid­ing escort and over­watch capa­bil­i­ties. The Lynx Mk9A is employed in Afghanistan in a close air sup­port role. 

Major Dan McBride, Joint Avi­a­tion Group Afghanistan, said: 

“Due to the topog­ra­phy of Afghanistan and the indis­crim­i­nate nature of impro­vised explo­sives devices, sup­port­ing the elec­tion on the ground can be open to disruption. 

“The best and most effec­tive means of achiev­ing the elec­toral process in hard to reach areas is, there­fore, to utilise avi­a­tion — specif­i­cal­ly heli­copters to sup­port the procedure.” 

Group Cap­tain Nick Laird, Com­man­der Joint Avi­a­tion Group, added: 

“The Afghan trans­port heli­copters can only go to cer­tain areas unac­com­pa­nied. We assist them with escort duties into those areas that have a high­er threat. 

“We pro­vide those escort air­craft by either using Lynx or Apache.” 

The Afghan Air Force is equipped with the Mi-17 or ‘Hip’ air­craft, which is a Russ­ian-built heli­copter designed to fly in ‘hot and high’ conditions. 

Using the Mi-17 heli­copters, the 441st Squadron fly as flight advi­sors to both the AAF pilots and crew­men in a bid to improve their skill sets as mil­i­tary aviators. 

US Air Force Lieu­tenant Colonel Todd Pre­jean, Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 441st Air Expe­di­tionary Advi­so­ry Squadron, said: 

“We do all types of train­ing. I’ve done gun­nery train­ing with them; I’ve done rock­et train­ing with them. We’ll do sling load train­ing with them here short­ly, just nor­mal basic fly­ing train­ing, aero­space train­ing — any­thing that would make them pro­fes­sion­al aviators.” 

He continued: 

“What we did yes­ter­day was expose them to some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, a lit­tle more advanced. They’ve nev­er seen a Lynx before as far as I’m aware. 

“We’ve worked with the British a lit­tle bit — so any time we can expose them to oth­er pro­fes­sion­al organ­i­sa­tions, what it does for us is it shows them that this is not the Amer­i­can way, all pro­fes­sion­al avi­a­tion forces do it this way, so it rein­forces their lessons.” 

Lynx pilot War­rant Offi­cer Class 2 Jon Earp said: 

“This mis­sion sig­ni­fies a mas­sive step for­ward; I was here three years ago when we were deliv­er­ing their elec­tion mate­ri­als — there was no Afghan involve­ment whatsoever. 

“How­ev­er, three years lat­er, the Afghans are fly­ing their own elec­tion papers to their own peo­ple. That, as far as I’m con­cerned, is a step for­ward and a step in the right direction.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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