Armed MD Helicopters MD-530Fs delivered this year to the Afghan Air Force lack the performance to be effective combat weapons in that mountainous nation, The New York Times reported Sept. 27, quoting a top air force officer. That officer is Col. Qalandar Shah Qalandari, who the news outlet said recently took command of the air force's squadron of 16 MD-530Fs. Calling him Afghanistan's most decorated pilot, the Times quoted the colonel saying the aircraft's service ceiling of 7,000 to 8,000 ft in hot temperatures with full fuel and ammunition loads significantly limits the helicopters' effective range. They cannot clear mountains to reach areas where the air force's opponents—Taliban fighters—normally operate, the newspaper said. "The plane is a total mess," the colonel was quoted as saying. "If we go down after the enemy, we're going to have enemy return fire, which we can't survive. If we go higher up, we can't visually target the enemy." American officials defended the helicopters in the report. "This is a sustainable solution," the Times quoted Lt. Col. James Abbott as saying. Described as a U.S. Air Force officer who helps run the MD-530F program, Abbott told the news outlet the helicopters were procured and delivered, with Afghan pilots trained to fly them in less than a year.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Capt. Jeffre Nagan