The push to train crewmen and maintainers serving in the Afghan Air Force is not solely the responsibility of those NATO countries currently operating in Afghanistan (look out for Rotor & Wing’s forthcoming feature on U.S. Army training of Afghan helicopter aircrew). On April 1, the first 10 Afghan helicopter maintainers began a 90-day course at the OAO Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant in Russia.
This has been made possible by the Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund project, launched last April by the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) with the specific aim of building capacity in the Afghan Air Force (AAF) to operate its helicopter fleet more effectively.
Although promoted through NATO, financial backing and other contributions valued at around $23 million was sourced for the project by countries including Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and the U.S.
The Novosibirsk plant is claimed to be the only civil helicopter works in Russia to specialize in the repair and maintenance of all Mil types—Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-24/25/35 and Mi-26—as well as all of their systems and components.
The AAF operates 36 Mi-17s and eight Mi-35s although the initial training will focus on the Mi-17s. A specific curriculum has been specifically developed for the AAF around three existing certified courses and will cover “the maintenance of helicopters engines, armaments, avionics, instrumentation, radio equipment and electrical equipment.”
The project currently expects around 30 Afghan maintenance personnel to go through the course over the next couple of years. According to NATO, “Training will consist of both classroom instruction using a computer-based system and practical, on-the-job training in production units and laboratories. It will be conducted with the help of Dari interpreters and the translation into Dari of all related technical documentation is foreseen.”
The training under this project is also confirmed as “complementary to other aircraft-maintenance capacity-building initiatives underway on the ground in Afghanistan, provided by contractors such as Defense Technology Inc., Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.”