Pentagon Officials Celebrate Arrival of New US Helicopters for Afghan Forces

Long Re-Training Needed Before Afghans Can Fly Black Hawks

Pentagon officials held a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan over the weekend to mark the arrival of the first UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters being delivered to the Afghan Air Force. The shipments are intended to totally remark the Afghan Air Force around the US-made helicopters.

The US spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past acquiring old Soviet M-17 helicopters, because those are the ones Afghan pilots were used to, old throwbacks from the Soviet occupation. The plan to change to US-made helicopters was announced in November of last year.

This leaves the Afghans with a problem though: nobody knows how to fly Black Hawks. This was the deal-breaker way back when that convinced Pentagon officials to go to the trouble of finding old Soviet craft. And while officials say training Afghans on the new helicopters won’t be difficult, it will take a long time.

The US is trying to change the narrative around this change, now claiming that the Black Hawks are just way better, and will leave Afghan forces eventually with a much better air force. Yet this isn’t at all the story they were telling last year when this decision was made.

Instead, the problem was legal restrictions surrounding worsening US-Russia relations were making it harder for the US to get ahold of the M-17s in large quantities. Officials are no longer emphasizing that issue, and instead are just presenting it as an “upgrade,” albeit a very costly, time consuming one.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of