Unleash the Tucanos

Afghan air force close air support is a key capability gap that must be filled to enable coalition forces to hand more security responsibility over to Afghan forces, said US Forces Afghanistan Commander Army Gen. John Campbell on Wednesday. The AAF’s future CAS capability relies on the A-29 Super Tucano, the platform that Air Force instructors are currently training the Afghans on at Moody AFB, Ga. “In hindsight, I wish we would have started that years ago and we’d have had that capability now,” Campbell testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 4. “We won’t have any for this fighting season ’15; we’ll get some at the end of the year,” and until then, the AAF will make do with a mix of machine-gun-armed Mi-17 and MD-530 helicopters and a handful of Mi-35 attack choppers, he said. “What I tell the Afghans is don’t plan your operation wholly dependent on close air support. … The Taliban doesn’t have close air support,” he said, stressing that reliance on CAS is often just a lack of battlefield confidence and leadership. The United States will deliver 20 A-29s to the Afghans between now and 2018, but “quite frankly, we can’t get equipment quickly enough for them,” said Campbell.