AFCENT Airmen Support Afghan Airdrop Training and MERV Clearance Ops

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
  • AFCENT Public Affairs

U.S. Air Forces Central Command published its September Airpower Summary today highlighting airpower operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

In Afghanistan, AFCENT Airmen operated as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan Air Force, most recently in ‘Speedball’ training – a rapid relief supply airdrop capability.

Simultaneously, in Iraq and Syria, Coalition Airmen enabled ISIS clearance operations within the Middle Euphrates River Valley as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve and provided security forces assistance to the Iraqi Aviation and Air Defense Enterprise through the efforts of the Coalition Aviation Advisory and Training Team.

“Airpower’s strength is flexibility, speed and agility,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Combined Forces Air Component Commander. “That’s how we simultaneously support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Resolute Support and Operation Inherent Resolve. We assess what’s needed and tailor airpower to support these campaigns.  On top of that, we play a huge role in providing deterrence and stability in this region as a ready force.”

The entire airpower summary is online at the following link:  Airpower Summary - Sep. 2018

Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan

For the air component, the primary weight of effort in the CENTCOM AOR remains Afghanistan. September saw the most weapons employed there by AFCENT and Coalition assets since November 2010.

I never want air or space power to be taken for granted,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Combined Forces Air Component Commander. “It’s astonishing what we provide the Joint campaign. From close air support, armed over watch, strategic and inter-theater airlift, ISR, personnel recovery, tanker refueling, and space effects, these capabilities interweave across the Joint fight.”

In September, aircraft assigned to the CFACC flew 772 strike sorties in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, releasing 841 weapons in order to deny ISIS-K terrorist safe havens as well as create space for political reconciliation. ISR aircraft flew 1,753 sorties this month, totaling 8,283 sorties this year, enabling target development, battlespace situational awareness and dynamic strikes.   

Tankers flew 459 sorties and offloaded 20 million pounds of fuel to 1,895 receivers. Meanwhile, airlifters flew 829 sorties. C-130s flew two airdrop missions supporting ongoing operations. Mobility Airmen delivered 5,738 cargo short tons and 9,750 personnel last month.

Train, advise and assist mission

Train Advise and Assist Command – Airmen worked with their Afghan Air Force counterparts to train and develop further capabilities and capacity, including graduating 5 certified Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators, who are now able to provide effective air-to-ground integrated support for the Afghan National Army.

“The Coalition remains strong. It’s not just a U.S. air effort. We’re partnering to provide train, advise, assist efforts, empowering our partners to be more effective,” said Guastella.

As well, on Sept. 25 Afghan airmen and their counterparts at the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and the 373rd Fixed Wing Squadron validated “Speedball” airdrops – a capability that improves relief supply delivery.

The high velocity ballistic airdrop capability, designed solely for delivery of humanitarian supplies, uses low cost, readily available materials to rapidly send food, blankets, and medical supplies to disaster affected remote areas using independently sustainable construction materials.

Speedball airdrops, delivered by C-208’s in formation, double the amount of relief supplies that can be delivered and give the Government of Afghanistan an organic capability.

Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria

Like Afghanistan, September also saw a rise of munitions employment in Iraq and Syria as ISIS clearance operations continued in the Middle Euphrates River Valley with AFCENT Airmen increasing close air support to operations.

In September, the U.S. and Coalition flew 1,321 strike sorties, a slight increase from August. Defensive counter air and close air support remained the airpower weight of effort. Overall, the Coalition released 758 weapons.   

Manned and unmanned ISR aircraft flew 766 sorties, developing targets and providing decision-quality data to leaders and operators in the field.

Tankers flew 770 sorties in September while offloading 43 million pounds of fuel to 4,446 receivers, extending aircraft loiter time and reach over operating areas. 

Airlifters flew 644 sorties, while delivering 2,923 short tons of cargo and 4,472 passengers. 

C-130s flew three airdrop missions weighing a total of 56,400 pounds, contributing to the 259,840 pounds of supplies airdropped this year.

U.S. and Coalition Airmen train Iraqi partners

In September, Search and Rescue Air Advisors from the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron combined with their Iraqi partners to execute a series of small scale exercises that led up to the first joint search and rescue exercise between the Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Army. Exercise “Wounded Hawk” laid the foundation for future survival training events and formalized the first national Personnel Recovery Plan.

As the fight against ISIS continues in the border region between Iraq and Syria, Security Forces Defenders from the 443rd Air Expeditionary Squadron integrated with Iraqi Security Forces and other coalition partners to launch the first joint base defense exercise at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. The exercise increased cooperation and fortified critical defense capabilities. The 443 AES Airmen serve on the forefront of the fight against ISIS as they deliver agile combat support through airfield management, cargo processing and personnel movement.

“As a team, we have built incredible momentum through a series of tactical, operational and strategic gains in building Iraqi airpower, supporting coalition forces, and enabling the lasting defeat of ISIS,” said Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, Director of the Coalition Air Advisory and Training Team. “The fight is ongoing; there are no timeouts, so we believe in preparing and executing with a constant eye on winning the campaign.”