Taliban Could Sell Captured A-29, C-130 and UH-60 Aircraft To China, Report

A top-level Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month, promising that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants. photo by CGTN.

Once the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and airfield in Kandahar, it captured a large number of military helicopters such as U.S.-made Black Hawks and Soviet-made Mi-17s, reported Defense News.

The Afghan air force operated a total of 211 aircraft, with about 167 planes and helicopters available for use as of June 30, according to a July report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The Afghan air force operated 23 A-29 attack planes, four C-130 cargo planes, three light aircraft Pilatus PC-12NG, eight MD-530F helicopters, two light aircraft Cessna 182T, four aircraft Cessna 208B, six UH-60 helicopters  and a total of 33 militarized versions of the Cessna Caravan, some of which were configured for a light attack mission, according to the special inspector report.

It also flew about 150 helicopters, which included the American-made UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter and armed MD-530s, as well as the Soviet Mi-17, which the Afghan air force was in the process of retiring.

Of the Afghan air force’s inventory, perhaps the most advanced is the A-29 Super Tucano, a turboprop attack plane built by Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer and modified by Sierra Nevada, an American defense firm that integrates the aircraft with U.S.-made sensors and weapons.

India funded Mi-35 helicopters  

In 2014, India signed an agreement under which it will pay Russia to supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat troops prepare to leave the country, in a move that risks infuriating Pakistan.

Taliban also captured at least five Mi-17 helicopters, and four Mi-35 helicopters gifted by India.

Under the deal, smaller arms such as light artillery and mortars will be sourced from Russia and moved to Afghanistan.

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But it could eventually involve the transfer of heavy artillery, tanks and even combat helicopters that the Afghans have been asking India for since last year.

India has already been training military officers from Afghanistan, hosted a 60-member Special Forces group last year in the deserts of Rajasthan and supplied equipment such as combat vehicles and field medical support facilities.

Taliban wants to sale some aircraft to China

While the Taliban could seek to sell captured aircraft, none of the planes or helicopters operated by the Afghan air force contain sensitive technologies that would be useful to nations like China or Russia, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group.

The Taliban would face a long list of obstacles if it sought to operate the equipment itself, using the remaining airplanes and helicopters to form the basis of an ad-hoc air force.

First, the Taliban aren’t trained pilots capable of safely flying the aircraft, using its sensors and loading and deploying weapons.

A top-level Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month, promising that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.

An even larger hurdle for the Taliban would be the cost, expertise and logistics associated with maintaining the aircraft, an expensive proposition that involves servicing aircraft before and after flight, conducting repairs and buying spare parts.

On Monday, Uzbekistan’s Prosecutor General’s Office confirmed that 22 unspecified military aircraft and 24 helicopters — collectively carrying 585 soldiers and airmen — flew into the country on Aug. 14 and 15, Uzbekistan’s Podrobno news agency reported.

The office also stated that three more A-29 attack aircraft requested permission to land on Aug. 15 and were given MiG-29 escorts by the Uzbek military, but one MiG-29 and A-29 collided during flight. The pilots of both aircraft ejected safely.

“The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China’s participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

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