Saturday 18 September 2021

Postcards From Kabul: Taliban Shows Off Captured Aircraft

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
Images from a recently released video shows additional details of now-former Afghan Air Force aircraft and helicopters that were still present at Kabul International Airport at the time of its fall to the Taliban. In addition to showing the damage caused to aircraft by U.S. forces as they sought to prevent future use of Afghan Air Force assets, the footage also reveals that three Mi-24V attack helicopters were captured intact by the Taliban. Other aircraft such as the C-208/AC-208 utility/attack aircraft and C-130 transport aircraft similarly appear to have suffered less damage than initially thought.

The flyable inventory of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Air Force currently consists of eight MD 530F attack helicopters, around a dozen Mi-8/17s and four UH-60 'Blackhawk' transport helicopters. The activation of more Mi-8/17s and a number of UH-60s is likely, although the operational lifespan of any Blackhawk will likely be limited without access to qualified technicians. Nonetheless, the capture of at least twelve UH-60s and fourteen Mi-8/17s at Kabul will likely provide the Taliban with a steady source of spare parts for years to come. 

One of at least three now-former Afghan Air Force C-130s encountered at Kabul Airport.

This particular aircraft was already inoperational before the fall of Kabul. Notice that the propellers of its No.3 engine are in the feathered position.

Contrary to most other Afghan Air Force aircraft present at Kabul, this C-130 didn't have its avionics smashed.

A second C-130. The operational status of this aircraft remains unknown.

One of at least two Mi-24Vs (Mi-35) attack helicopters captured intact at Kabul. These do not appear to have suffered any damage at the hands of U.S. troops and will likely form the nucleus of the future Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Air Force.

These helicopters were originally gifted to Afghanistan by India in October 2019. Rather than supplying its own helicopters, India contracted Belarus to overhaul and deliver the Mi-24Vs instead.

Five C-208/AC-208 utility/attack aircraft. The AC-208 in front is armed with a rocket pod for laser-guided APKWS precision-guided munitions (PGMs).

This C-208 had its engine removed and replaced with three tires to prevent it from tipping backwards.

Five C-208 utility aircraft. The middle aircraft is missing its engine, causing it to slightly tilt backwards.

A look inside one of the helicopter hangars on the military side of Kabul Airport.

This hangar mostly housed MD 530Fs and at least two UH-60s, all of which received extensive damage to their windows and instrument panels.

This MD 530F even had its exhaust pipe trashed.

Cockpit damage suffered by one of the UH-60s in the hangar.

One of the MD 530Fs seen with its tail broken off. It is unknown if this damage was caused by U.S. forces or if the helicopter suffered a mishap at an earlier date.

Another hangar was used for the maintenance and overhaul of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, all of which were supposed to be replaced by American-made UH-60s that proved far more difficult to maintain than their Russian brethens.

Almost all Mi-17s in this hangar appear to have been damaged by U.S. forces as well.

Most Mi-17s suffered from flat tires and were likely already inoperational before they were intentionally damaged by U.S. forces.

One of the few Mi-17s without flat tires and dust on its windows, likely indicating it was still operational shortly before its capture.

Dog benches, food and feces on the ground, a reminder of the other occupants of this hangar. Some 120 dogs were left behind at Kabul Airport.

This UH-60 had the roundels cut out from its side doors, presumably by bored U.S. forces that wanted to take them home as souvenirs.

An interior shot of one of the twelve UH-60s captured at Kabul shows off some of the damage they received.

The MD 530Fs in this hangar were certainly not exempted from 'U.S. aggression' either.

The operations board of the MD 530F squadron, revealing it had at least 21 helicopters at its disposal.