Gift Horses: Afghanistan’s C-130 Fleet
When a USAF program to refurbish 20 Italian C-27A light tactical transport planes for the Afghan Air Force formally imploded at the end of 2012, the American looked for a longer-term plan B. At the high end, the proposal was to hand over 4 ex-USAF C-130H Hercules 20 medium tactical transports. In August 2013, we wrote:
“It’s a move that will require fewer pilots, which should be a plus for the Afghan Air Force, and it’s an easy move for the USA to make. On the other hand, they’re replacing maintenance-intensive planes that the AAF couldn’t maintain even with contractor help, with a smaller set of aged and maintenance-intensive planes. It doesn’t sound like they’re solving the problem…”
Now SIGAR makes it official: they didn’t…
How The Decision Was Made
When the C-27As became unflyable due to lack of maintenance (or perhaps lack of bribes), the Afghans fell back on their Cessna 208s and Mi-17s. A 2012 contract for 18 rugged PC-12 planes like the ones used by US special forces will supplement this fleet. The PC-12/47Es have more heft than a Cessna Caravan, but considerably less than the scrapped C-27As. The assumption was and is that the Afghan government would need another plane that can handle bigger loads, possibly including vehicles.
So, what to do? DID will excerpt that explanation verbatim from the July 2014 SIGAR Report:
“Specifically, as the result of problems with the G222 program, the U.S. Air Force Central Command assembled a three-person “tiger team” that deployed to Afghanistan in August 2012 to assist ISAF in analyzing different options regarding the future of AAF medium airlift. Using some general requirements including cargo weight, passenger numbers, ability to operate in Afghanistan, and cost and schedule, the team considered 18 different aircraft. Ultimately, the team identified 5 aircraft—C-130E/H, CASA-235, CASA-295, C-27J, and C-130J—as being able to meet the AAF’s medium airlift requirements. In addition, the team proposed acquisition approaches including open competition, sole source contracting, and purchasing U.S. stock. At the conclusion of deployment to Afghanistan, the tiger team did not provide a formal recommendation about which aircraft to select to meet the medium airlift requirement. In the tiger team’s August 22, 2012 presentation to ISAF, the team proposed an open competition to identify the best aircraft at the best price. According to October 2012 talking points for the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Commander ISAF directed NATC-A to develop a requirements document for the follow-on to the G222 program. According to the talking points, the tiger team raised concerns that the C-130 would be too complex and costly for the Afghans [emphasis ours]. In addition, the Air Force noted concerns that due to the necessary lead time for contractor support and training, the C-130 would be an “empty” asset for the Afghans, as they would not yet be fully trained to use the aircraft.
In November 2012, NATC-A and the tiger team, anticipating a possible open competition, created an initial capabilities document that outlined the AAF’s requirements for a new aircraft, including key performance parameters. The Commanding General, CSTC-A, and the AAF Commander coordinated and signed the document. However, the initial capabilities document was never used. Notwithstanding the concerns raised by the tiger team and others, on January 4, 2013 the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the Secretary of the Air Force to provide four C-130s to the AAF—two in 2013 and two by the end of 2014.”
Contracts & Key Events
July 10/14: SIGAR Report. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction is very dubious about the C-130 program:
“During our audit of U.S. support for the AAF to determine its capability to absorb additional equipment, we became aware of concerns regarding the C-130 program. First, we could not determine why DOD, in order to provide airlift of medium weight loads to the AAF, decided to provide four C-130s rather than different quantities or types of aircraft. Although the decision was made in January 2013 to purchase four C-130s, the AAF’s requirement for those aircraft had not been updated since March 2010. Second, we analyzed flight data for the two AAF C-130s currently in Afghanistan and found that they are being underutilized, which raises questions about whether additional aircraft are truly needed. Lastly, during my visit last month, I was informed about support problems associated with training, spare parts, and maintenance for the two C-130s currently in the inventory…. I suggest that, pending a review of the AAF’s medium airlift requirements and its ability to fully utilize the C-130s currently in the inventory, DOD delay delivery of additional C-130s. If DOD’s review indicates additional C-130s are unnecessary, DOD should not provide them. Even the elimination of one C-130 could save up to $40.5 million through 2017.
….The first two C-130s were provided to the AAF from existing U.S. Air Force stock at a combined cost of $77.1 million—$39.6 million for the two C-130s, and an additional $37.5 million for spare parts, equipment, and other charges.”
Sources: SIGAR, “Afghan Air Force May Not Need All C-130 Aircraft Provided by U.S. in $100 Million-Plus Deal” [PDF] | National Review, “IG: Afghans Aren’t Using U.S.-Provided Transport Planes, Don’t Need Another” has additional background.
Oct 9/13: Delivery. The first 2 C-130Hs arrive in Kabul, and conduct their 1st mission the next day: delivering several pallets of Mi-17 main landing gear parts, maintenance parts and office supplies for the Kandahar Air Wing. The load weighed more than 10,500 pounds, which is quite beyond the individual capacity of the AAF’s other aircraft, but is far less than half of the C-130′s capacity. Sources: USAF AMC, “Afghan C-130 takes off to a great start”.
Sept 25/13 Support. FBO.gov issues an RFP to support the AAF’s C-130Hs. “Afghan Air Force (AAF) C-130H Contractor Logistics Services (CLS), Solicitation Number: FA8553-13-R-32288″. Its last modification was June 10/14:
“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Air Training Command-Afghanistan (NATC-A) has a requirement to support and sustain up to four (4) C-130H aircraft at the Main Operating Base (MOB) at Kabul, Afghanistan, and as needed, provide on-call support at Forward Operating Locations (FOLs). The Tactical Airlift Division of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), located at Robins AFB, GA, intends to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), FA8553-13-R-32288. This effort is to be a full and open competition resulting in a Single Award, Firm Fixed Price, Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract for Contractor Logistics Services (CLS) support of the four (4) C-130H aircraft at Kabul. The period of performance will be a one (1) year basic with four (4) one (1) year options.”
Sept 18/13: C-130s. NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan has confirmed that it will deliver the first 2 of 4 C-130H Hercules medium transports to Afghanistan on Oct 10/13, with the other 2 arriving in 2014. Crews are currently training in the USA, but it remains to be seen whether the AAF can maintain and fly them for very long after they’re handed over. Mi-17 helicopters and Cessna C208Bs are the AAF’s transportation mainstays right now. Sources: Stars & Stripes, “Afghans to receive first C-130 aircraft from US Air Force”.
Jan 4/13: Decision. US Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox directs the Secretary of the Air Force to provide 4 used C-130Hs to the Afghan Air Force.