November 20, 2008
Major Jay H. Janzen
Task Force Kandahar Public Affairs Advisor
KANDAHAR - As the early morning Afghan sun struggled to rise above the rugged mountains, two Canadian-contracted Mi-8 helicopters lifted off from Kandahar Air Field carrying valuable supplies to troops in Canadian forward operating bases in Kandahar Province. The flights on Nov. 17 marked the first time these aircraft have been employed under a new contract that increases Task Force Kandahar's air capability.
Colonel Christopher Coates, Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing Commander, said that the addition of this new capability will "get Canadians off the roads here in Afghanistan where they are exposed to all the dangers of this country... ambushes and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and the other things that all Canadians are aware of.
"The Canadian aviation community that I'm very much a part of back in Canada is very excited to be here and it's something we've wanted to do for quite some time," he added. "We believe we've got a lot to contribute to the operation and we are very excited to be here."
According to Bob Waring, Project Manager for the Toronto-based Sky Link, the contracted Mi-8 helicopters are ideally suited for operations in Afghanistan. "It is a very versatile aircraft with extremely good capability for high, hot and heavy operations which is what we are looking at doing here," he said.
"It's an austere and difficult environment but we've got the airframes and we've got the crews that are up to the task," he continued. "We have the best of intelligence, the best of coordination, the best of communications, so through that, we are able to do what we need to do."
This summer the Canadian government announced an air capability for the mission in Afghanistan including leasing helicopters to address immediate needs, purchasing six Chinook helicopters, and acquiring UAVs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The need for this additional capacity was set out in the March 13th parliamentary motion to extend Canada's military mission in Afghanistan until 2011. Obtaining these additional air resources was also one of the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan, headed by the Honourable John Manley.
Late this summer, Task Force Afghanistan began using the new Scan Eagle UAV in support of its operations. The Heron UAV tactical system has been leased and is expected to commence operations in Kandahar Province in early 2009.
Chinook D model helicopters are being purchased from the U.S. government and are expected to be flying in support of operations by February 2009.
In a statement announcing Canada's new air capability this summer, General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, said that "the helicopters will allow commanders the flexibility to reduce ground-based resupply convoys and more easily reach remote locations in challenging environments where they could be at risk of ambushes, land mines and improvised explosive devices."