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A-29 pilot training program will no longer bring Afghans to US

Afghan air force student pilots assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron watch a graduation ceremony Nov. 13, 2020, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The class of Afghan A-29 Super Tucano student pilots will be the last to graduate in the U.S., the Air Force said.

TARYN BUTLER/U.S. AIR FORCE

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 19, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan air force personnel will no longer receive training in the United States on flying and maintaining their A-29 Super Tucano turboprop attack aircraft, the Air Force said.

For the past five years, Afghan students have been trained by instructors from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The program graduated its final class on Nov. 13th, the Air Force said in a statement Tuesday. All future A-29 training will be conducted in Afghanistan by local instructors, it said.

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our partnership,” Kelli Seybolt, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said in the statement. “We are committed to the continued support of this program in order to strengthen independent Afghan capabilities and achieve sustained peace.”

More than 30 pilots and 70 maintenance technicians have graduated since the program at Moody began in 2015. It was scheduled to end in 2018 but was extended through this year.

American advisers assigned to the program were mostly drawn from A-10 pilots who needed training of their own on the twin-seat A-29 before instructing Afghan flyers. After providing introductory instruction to the Afghans at Moody, the advisers would deploy to Afghanistan to provide additional mentoring.

Afghanistan received its first A-29s from the U.S. in early 2016 as part of international efforts to build the country’s fledgling air force. Training to fly, and especially maintain, most of the force’s aircraft is still needed, U.S. and Afghan officials have said.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @pwwellman
 

An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano soars over Afghanistan in 2015. The 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., graduated its last class of Afghan A-29 Super Tucano student pilots Nov. 13, 2020.
LARRY E. REID JR./U.S. AIR FORCE