NATO Command Strengthens Afghan Air Force

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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