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Afghan Air Force A-29 drops first laser-guided bomb against Taliban

An Afghan Air Force A-29 light attack aircraft used a laser-guided bomb against a Taliban target, marking the first time the AAF has dropped a laser-guided bomb in combat, a press release said.

On March 22, pilots from Kabul Air Wing’s Kandahar A-29 Super Tucano detachment used a GBU-58 laser-guided bomb to destroy a Taliban compound in Farah, western Afghanistan, said the Tuesday, March 27 release posted on the U.S. military’s distribution service website.

The pilots were equipped with both guided and unguided bombs. They chose the GBU-58 to avoid collateral damage because of the target’s proximity to civilians, and the drop resulted in a direct hit along the route of an Afghan National Army clearing operation, the release said.

The Afghan Air Force first conducted airstrikes using the A-29 Super Tucano in April 2016 and training with laser-guided bombs was underway in January 2018.

For the March 22 mission, AAF personnel loaded, armed, and launched the aircraft “with minimal advisor input,” the release said.

“The Afghan pilots have learned their trade during combat and our advisors have expanded their skills in a deliberate step by step approach increasing the Afghan Air Force capability and this recent laser guided bomb strike is an example of the success of the AAF and TAAC-Air’s efforts,” said Brigadier General Phillip A. Stewart, Train Advise, Assist Command-Air commander.

Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano
An Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano over Kabul, Afghanistan, August 14, 2015. Image: US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr

The A-29 is a durable and flexible aircraft designed for counter-insurgency and close air support roles. It can also be used for reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments and for pilot training, and is capable of operating from unimproved runways.

In October, The U.S. Air Force ordered six additional A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for the Afghan Air Force, bringing to 26 the total number of planes to be supplied under the Afghanistan Program, with 12 aircraft currently in the country and available for AAF use. Seven aircraft are currently used for pilot training at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. One further A-29 crashed during training in March 2017 and has not yet been replaced.

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