The Afghan air force received its first two C-130s from the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday, according to NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan. Ultimately, the Afghans will receive four of the aircraft.
The cargo aircraft are meant to replace the 16 C-27A cargo aircraft that the Afghans lost when the U.S. Air Force decided not to renew the contract with Alenia Aermacchi North America for not being able to provide enough flyable planes.
Two Afghan pilots have been trained in the U.S. so far and another two are in the training pipeline, according to a NATO news release. Flight engineers and loadmasters are scheduled to begin training shortly.
The C-130H cargo planes can carry 10 times more cargo than the Cessna C-208s that the Afghans have, the news release says. At a ceremony Wednesday at Kabul International Airport, the head of the Afghan air force vowed to keep the C-130s “safe and operational.”
After the ceremony, one of the C-130s conducted a low-level flyover, the news release says. Later, 1st Lt. Khial Shinwari, one of the first Afghan C-130 pilots, opened the hatch and waved the Afghan flag as the plane came to a stop.
“The first time I saw this big airplane, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fly it,” Shinwari said in the news release. “After the professional training I received, I realized it is not that hard to fly. It was my childhood dream to be a pilot.”