US Air Force, November 06, 2013 - KABUL, Afghanistan by Capt. Anastasia Wasem NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan Public Affairs - The final two Afghan Mi-35 helicopter co-pilots from the Kabul Air Wing completed training November 3 in order to finalize a crew build-up that has spanned over a year.
Czech Republic instructor pilots and advisors with NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan qualified the additional two pilots from the 377th Rotary Wing Squadron in order to complete the build-up of six Mi-35 aircraft commanders and co-pilots for six combat-ready crews.
"Six and six was the ultimate goal in order to have six combat-ready crews," said Capt. Martin Douda, NATC-A Mi-35 instructor pilot from Namest Nad Oslavou, Czech Republic. "Six crews allow for a steady "alert" crew and also take into account necessary maintenance and crew rest while still allowing for constant use of the Mi-35 helicopters."
The Mi-35 attack helicopter is a vital asset to the Afghan Air Force that employs decisive, kinetic air-to-ground combat capabilities in support of ground combat attack operations and aerial escort support missions.
"Most of the pilots have previous training in the Mi-35 from 15 or 20 years ago, but there have been a lot of breaks in training and flying," stated Douda. "It's been necessary to refresh their skills; especially for flying combat missions."
Even with previous experience, it took about 15 to 20 hours of flight time for the pilots to qualify as co-pilots, according to Douda. The training plan was completely tailored for each individual pilot in order to maximize flight time and balance the use of each Mi-35 with training and real-world missions.
The training process consisted of instruction on basic piloting as a refresher course, high level and low level hovering, live fire exercises, aerial escort techniques and a final evaluation flight to test proficiency on all tasks. The Mi-35 is capable of shooting the GSh-23, the Yak-B 12.7mm machine gun and the S-5 57mm rocket pod. Pilots must be trained on all three weapons systems.
The AAF currently has 19 Mi-35 pilots.
"The plan is to continue training the additional pilots," said Douda. "Twelve are combat-ready and the remaining seven will continue through the training pipeline towards becoming combat-ready co-pilots."