Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Leidos Innovation Group has received a $727.7 million contract for support of the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft fleets, the Department of Defense announced on Thursday.
The contract will be fulfilled in Kabul, Afghanistan, and is expected to be completed by May 31, 2020. The Army has already obligated $126.7 million in operations and maintenance funds for the program.
The Afghan government has been struggling to develop it's own air force despite heavy U.S. investment and training, and the Afghan military is still highly dependent on U.S. air support. The AAF's inventory is a mixture of Russian, American and other nation's helicopters and light aircraft
The Afghans still primarily rely on legacy and recently purchased Soviet-era platforms like the Mi-17 transport and Mi-24 attack helicopters. Many air systems purchased for the AAF since the U.S. invasion have been of little utility due to lack of trained personnel and maintenance.
The AAF and its U.S. backers have been taking a different approach with the purchase and activation of light planes and helicopters like the A-29 Super Tucano turboprop attack planes and MD-530 utility helicopters adapted for an attack role. Their relatively low cost and ease of maintenance make them well suited for the AAF, and their primary enemy the Taliban has little sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities.