US begins delivery of Black Hawks to Afghanistan

US begins delivery of Black Hawks to Afghanistan
© Getty

The United States has delivered the first two of an eventual 159 Black Hawk helicopters to Afghanistan to replace the aging Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters currently in use.  

Maj. Gen. Stephen Farmen, the head of Army Security Assistance Command, told reporters Thursday the UH-60A Black Hawk sale had been in the works for about nine months prior to the delivery. The sale is a major part of the U.S.-led coalition training mission.

“Helicopters are incredibly important for success in Afghanistan,” said Farmen, who leads the command responsible for $177 billion worth of foreign military sales to 153 countries.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Anyone that serves there knows that being able to move around via helicopter is essential, so we’re moving off the Mi-17s. The bottom line is that’s a very long-term commitment of the U.S. to Afghanistan.”

The aircraft were delivered Saturday to Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani formally accepted them. Ghani called the delivery a “historic day” that would allow the country's air force to better respond to the demands of the security forces, Reuters reported.

The Black Hawks will replace the fewer than 40 Russian Mi-17 helicopters now used by the Afghans. Farmen said current Mi-17 pilots will switch over to the new Black Hawks — which are made by the Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky and will cost the U.S nearly $8 million each — and the aircraft will be fully integrated into the Afghan air force within five years.

The Black Hawks are meant to bolster President Trump’s new push to defeat the Taliban in the United States' 16-year war in Afghanistan. More than 3,000 U.S. troops are to be deployed to the country to join the 11,000 forces currently there to train and assist the Afghan military and conduct counterterror operations.

Reuters reported that the Taliban has warned that the aircraft would not affect the war in the country.

U.S. and Afghan leaders “should remember that our fight is not based on technology but is an ideologically motivated fight,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter, according to Reuters.