AFCENT postures for defense while strengthening partner capacity

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Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) Mirage 2000s and U.S. F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over Southwest Asia, May 21, 2019. This flight continues building on interoperability and military-to-military relationships with the QEAF. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes)

U.S. Air Forces Central Command published its May Airpower Summary Aug. 4.

May brought a shifting of focus in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, as the command requested additional forces due to clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces across the region – on land and at sea. The additional forces and capabilities were a prudent defensive measure and intended to reduce the possibility of future hostilities. These forces: the Bomber Task Force of B-52Hs, a Patriot battery battalion, and the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, were successful in deterring the immediate threats posed to U.S. forces.

“Increasing our air presence in the Arabian Gulf, and our ability to detect and attribute Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps malign actions is critical to maintaining deterrence,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, U.S. AFCENT commander. “We are prepared to defend our forces, integrate allies and partners, and protect our interests.”

The May airpower summary is online at the following link: May 2019.

Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan
The month of May began a historic change in the tactics of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces designed to support the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace talks held in April 2019. The ANDSF began moving from being a defensive force holding checkpoints to an offensive force, strategically focused on taking the fight to the Taliban. Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Defense Lt. Gen. Yasin Zia stated that “We need to go after the enemy. We are an offensive, mobile force. This is the culture of our force. Commanders will go out to the field with their soldiers.”

In May, airlifters flew 935 sorties transporting 8,874 personnel, 5,838 short tons of cargo and performed one airdrop. Throughout the month, tanker aircraft delivered 16.5 million pounds of fuel, flying 422 sorties with 2,050 aerial refuelings. The air component flew 1,594 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties, 736 strike sorties and released 635 weapons in Afghanistan.

A group of 26 Afghan pilots and door gunners completed their training for UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in southern Kandahar province in May. They received their graduation certificates during a ceremony which was attended by several Afghan Air Force general officers. The majority of the 11 Pilots had successfully completed a UH-60 Aircraft Qualification Training in a two-month course and then transited to a Mission Qualification Course at Kandahar. Training was overseen and managed by advisors from various RESOLUTE SUPPORT member states, including the United States, Australian Army and Swedish Air Force. Those same coalition advisors fly with and instruct the Afghan Air Force crews on mission tactics after they graduate from training.

The Afghanistan Air Force conducted its first successful offensive strike with the AC-208 light attack aircraft on 31 May. This strike highlights the Afghan Air Force’s success in independently planning, coordinating, and conducting strikes. The AC-208 brings important new capabilities to the Afghan Air Force; the aircraft is capable of conducting both precision strikes and ISR missions. These capabilities further advance the Afghan Air Force’s ground support and ISR capabilities increasing their effectiveness and efficiency fighting insurgents and preventing civilian casualties.

“I’m always very proud and supportive of the security forces,” said U.S. and NATO Forces Commander in Afghanistan Army Gen. Scott Miller. “What’s interesting now is listening to the people. And I hear the Afghan people saying it’s time for peace.”

Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) continued to put pressure on Daesh in May, to prevent a resurgence following the defeat of the physical caliphate.

U.S. and Coalition pilots flew 825 strike sorties and1,230 ISR sorties releasing 54 weapons in support of Joint Coalition and partner ground forces’ ISIS clearance operations in May.

During this time, tanker aircraft flew 511 sorties, delivering 33 million pounds of fuel through 2,673 aerial refuelings. C-130 and C-17 airlifters transported 4,416 passengers and 2,605 short tons of cargo in Iraq and Syria through 524 sorties. 20,400 pounds of supplies were also delivered in one airdrop in the area of operations.

The Coalition Air Advisor Training Team continues to coordinate with our Iraqi partners. Our coalition teammates are collaborating with the Iraqi Air Force as they discuss opportunities to refine the pilot training pipeline. Air advisors continue delivering train-the-trainer courses, building the skills and expertise of the Iraqi instructor force. The 441st Air Expeditionary Squadron in Syria is advancing agile combat support capabilities and recently successfully conducted air drop operations. Together with local Syrian Defense Force leadership, the 441 AES is bolstering security in the region.

“The successes we are seeing across Iraq and Syria are a result of ongoing integration and collaboration with coalition forces and Iraqi and Syrian partners. We continue to work together with this multi-faceted team to build Iraqi air power and enable regional security that ensures the lasting defeat of ISIS,” said Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, the Director of Air Operations, CJTF-OIR.