How the U.S. Military Can Fix Aviation Advising Missions

In 2017, Afghan Mi-17 helicopters flown by crews from the elite Afghan 777 Special Mission Wing saved the day. Shortly after notification of an ISIS-Khorasan attack on a hospital in Kabul, they braved rifle and machine-gun fire to deposit Afghan special police on the rooftop and ground. This was a case of Afghan crews skillfully flying Afghan aircraft into danger—a testament to the effort of an enduring aviation capacity-building effort by the international community. These helicopter crews built their skills over five years of continuous training alongside a special operations advisory group (SOAG), a coalition element dedicated to teaching advanced aviation skills. And they have done so despite serious shortfalls within the US aviation advisory system.

One of the toughest security force assistance challenges the US military faces in Iraq and Afghanistan is how to help both countries use airpower in their fights against insurgent elements. Airpower can rapidly move personnel and supplies across long distances or to otherwise inaccessible terrain, gather imagery and signals intelligence, provide close air support and firepower to units in distress, and provide life-saving medical evacuation for casualties. It offers an advantage for the Afghan and Iraqi militaries in their fights against insurgents.

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