The U.S. military is scrapping the Afghan air force’s entire fleet of Italian-made cargo planes, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
U.S. and Afghan officials told the paper that the Afghan military isn’t expected to have an independent and fully functioning air force until around 2017, well after the withdrawal of most U.S. and international troops.
On the west end of Kabul International Airport, twin-engine C-27As sit side by side, sunlight reflecting off their gray wings and the green, black, and red of the Afghan flag emblazoned on their tails. For more than a year, though, most of the planes had been little more than expensive aviation exhibitions, unable to fly due to lack of spare parts and maintenance.
Now, despite spending nearly $600 million on the program, the U.S. is canceling the contract for the aircraft and disposing of all 16 planes delivered to the Afghan Air Force, the Journal reported.
Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA, failed to meet the requirements of their contract to maintain the fleet, according to an email from U.S. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick, who was quoted in the Journal.
$600 million is a pretty small price for 16 C-27A’s. Mind you, these are used aircraft, originally built as Alenia G.222’s, and not the much updated C-27J that has been such a bone of contention between the Army and the Air Force.
Still, airplanes are finicky things, and buying some spare parts might have been a good idea.
And while I don’t really know for sure, I suspect a nice simple plane like the C-27A might have been the upper limit that the Afghan infrastructure could have supported. Instead, now they got nothing from this program, and will instead try to operate some surplus USAF C-130s.