Afghan military leaders and MD Helicopters swapped claims last month about the performance of newly delivered armed MD-530F’s.
|A U.S. trooper provides security while an MD-530F takes off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan with an all-Afghan crew for a combat mission Sept. 27. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/
Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch
They are not effective combat weapons in that mountainous nation, The New York Times reported Sept. 27, quoting a top Afghan air force officer, Col. Qalandar Shah Qalandari, the new commander of the 16-aircraft MD-530F squadron. 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. “The plane is a total mess,” the colonel was quoted as saying.
American officials defended the helicopters. “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, he told the news outlet the helicopters were procured and delivered and Afghan pilots trained to fly them in less than a year.
In a statement, MD said the MD-530F exceeded customer’s requirements for operational range and altitude and some criticism may stem from pilot preference for Russian Mi-35s familiar to veteran pilots in the region. It “would expect comments to be made based on the performance differences between the two,” MD said. “A number of the Afghan pilots prefer the MD-530F.”