The U.S. deployed a squadron of A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft to Kandarhar, returning the jet to Afghanistan, where it will soon launch strikes against the Taliban.
The A-10 squadron arrived at Kandahar airfield on January 19, and NATO’s Resolute Support mission announced the deployment in a Tuesday, January 23 press release.
“In a matter of days A-10s will conduct their first strike against the Taliban, continuing the air campaign destroying narcotics production facility [sic],” the release said.
The A-10s will be supported by additional MQ-9 Reaper drones for ISR and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters that can conduct search and rescue missions.
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) January 23, 2018
Other aircraft from Bagram airfield will support the operations, as will a detachment of KC-135 Stratotankers that have operated from Kandahar since September, Resolute Support said.
A-10s were first deployed to Bagram in 2002. Last year the Afghan government lobbied the U.S. to redeploy the aircraft to support the Afghan Air Force.
Nicknamed the “Warthog,” the A-10 features a 30 mm GAU-8/A cannon and can carry up to 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance, including 500-pound Mk-82 bombs, Mk-840 series low/high drag bombs, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air-missiles.
The Afghan Air Force is set to double its aircraft fleet over the next seven years. In October, the U.S. Air Force ordered six additional A-29 Super Tucano light aircraft for the Afghan Air Force, bringing its total to 26. The first six Afghan Air Force pilots qualified to pilot the UH-60 Black Hawk graduated from Aircraft Qualification Training on November 20.
The AAF also plans to introduce AC-208 attack aircraft and additional MD-530 attack helicopters.