AN ADDITIONAL five MD530F Cayuse Warriors have been delivered to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). The helicopters arrived at Kabul-Hamid Karzai International Airport on board a US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III from Travis Air Force Base, California, on June 17.
Lt Col Bill Ashford, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander, said: “These five latest (MD-530s) have the capability to fire rockets or .50-calibre machine guns and sighting systems that aren’t on the previously-delivered helicopters. We are also getting kits to modify the existing 13 to be able to support guns and rockets, but these five will be the first with both capabilities in service here.”
Members of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/Train, Advise, Assist Command – Air (TAAC-Air), AAF personnel, contractors and the Travis AFB-based crew helped unload the Cayuse Warriors upon arrival. “Some Afghans were sceptical of the MD530 when it first started operating, however, it has proven itself in combat. Now everyone wants MD530 support. The pilots are doing great work flying daily combat missions supporting (ANA) troops on the ground and escorting AAF Mi-17s in the air.”
Ashford said all of the helicopters were shipped from MD Helicopters Inc in Mesa, Arizona, and all 18 are armed with two .50-caliber machine gun pods. The first six were delivered in March 2015 to help fulfill an aerial fires gap for the 2015 Fighting Season.
Noel Shorts, a senior test pilot and one of five test pilots working with the MD530s in Afghanistan, said the Rolls Royce engine has proven its reliability, and the extended tail helps considerably in these high altitudes. Major Mitchell Ryan, 438th AEW operations staff officer, said the AAF has flown more than 150 operational missions with the MD530 since May 1, 2016. “We’ve seen a steady increase in the employment of the (MD-530),” said Ryan. “Adding these five new helicopters will give the AAF the ability to fly even more critical missions.”
As with all major systems procured for the AAF, the MD530s were purchased using the Afghan Security Forces Fund. By the end of August 2016, the AAF is scheduled to receive nine more MD530s to bring the total strength to 27. AFD-Dave Allport