The Afghan Air Force (AAF) has rolled out into service its newly delivered armed MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) MD 530F helicopters, the US Department of Defense (DoD) revealed on 10 April.
The roll-out ceremony, which took place at Kabul International Airport (IAP) on 9 April, saw one of the first six helicopters delivered perform a live-fire demonstration of its twin FN Herstal Heavy Machine Gun Pods (HMPs).
The arrival of the armed MD 530Fs into AAF service will provide a timely boost to the government’s close air support capabilities ahead of the 2015 ‘fighting season’ in the country. Between 17 and 20 such helicopters are expected to be fully operational by early 2016.
Once in service, they will augment machine gun-equipped Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ and machine gun- and rocket-equipped Mi-35 ‘Hind’ helicopters, as well as the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack turboprop aircraft that is due to arrive towards the end of 2015.
The AAF already operates five MD 530F helicopters as trainers (six were delivered in 2011, but one was lost to an improvised explosive device in 2013). While the training fleet operates out of Shindand Air Base in the relatively peaceful Herat Province in the west of the country, the armed platforms will likely be flown out of Kabul IAP.