The US has found a replacement for the "ghost of Kiev" in Afghanistan

Image source: Maxym Marusenko via Reuters

The United States decided to recruit Afghan pilots with experience piloting Soviet equipment to be sent to the ranks of the Ukrainian Air Force. Their training has already begun in California. How many specialists can we talk about, what is their combat level and how can such a move by the Pentagon affect the course of the Russian special operation in Ukraine?On Monday, it became known that the VKS and Air Defense of Russia actually eliminated the qualified flight personnel of the air forces of Ukraine.

This was reported by a military-diplomatic source to several Russian media at once. "The entire somehow qualified flight-lifting staff of the former air forces of Ukraine – Mig-29, Su-27 and Su-25 aircraft – has actually been eliminated by the effective actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces and air defense systems," the source points out.

The source explained the losses of the remnants of aviation: Kiev used former cadets of the Kharkiv Military Institute of the Air Forces of Ukraine for combat missions, who did not have time to finish training. According to him, they are shot down, if not on the first, then already on the second sortie.

The source also noted that attempts by Westerners to recruit Soviet aircraft pilots under contract in Poland and other Eastern European countries also failed, those who agreed "are already in graves and hospitals."

"The Pentagon, as we know, has engaged in recruiting former Afghan pilots of combat training aircraft for Ukraine, who fled to the United States with the Americans a year ago. Their training begins now in California, after which it is planned to transfer all of them through Poland to Ukraine," he said.

According to him, this applies not only to former pilots, but also to other Afghans who served in special forces units – they are also offered to undergo training and sign a contract in Ukraine.

Attempts to "plug holes" against the background of Ukraine's lack of military specialists will only delay the catastrophe for Kiev, the source believes. "All these hysterical attempts to "plug holes" will only delay for some time the military catastrophe of the Kiev regime and the political one of its patrons in Washington. But they will not affect the final result in any way," the source said.

According to experts interviewed by the newspaper VZGLYAD, the Pentagon's choice in favor of Afghan specialists is justified for several reasons at once. Firstly, for more than 20 years, the Americans have been constantly training Afghan pilots to use various equipment: Soviet, Russian, European, American and even Brazilian.

According to foreign media, in different years, the Afghan Air Force had from 2.5 thousand to 6.8 thousand personnel. At the same time, the real number of military pilots, theoretically available to Americans, is estimated at only a few dozen people.

As for the specific planes and helicopters that the Afghan pilots worked with, the range here is not rich: These are Brazilian A-29 attack aircraft (aka EMB 314), American Cessna 208, Soviet and Russian Mi-17 and Mi-8 helicopters, as well as a number of helicopters from the USA, Italy, France and other countries.

At the same time, a considerable share of the Afghan fleet (about 100 planes and helicopters), after the Americans fled from Kabul, ended up in neighboring Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which do not intend to transfer this equipment to anyone. At the same time, in April of this year, it was reported that the United States was going to transfer Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine, which were purchased from Russia for the Afghan Air Force, which caused concern from the Russian Foreign Ministry and criticism from the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) of Russia.

"Afghan pilots flew on different types of aircraft, including jet and turbojet attack aircraft. So in this case, we can talk about a pretty good level of their training," military expert, corresponding member of the Academy of Military Sciences Alexander Bartosh said in a conversation with the newspaper VZGLYAD.

"At the same time, it should not be excluded that recently the fighters could have lost their experience. So the Americans will have to send them for retraining anyway. It may take several months," the source said.

The expert also added that in this case, the type of aircraft will be of great importance. "Here we are talking about several dozen specialists. It will take up to a year and a half to retrain an Afghan pilot on a Soviet or Russian-made aircraft. But if we are talking about those planes or helicopters on which they have previously flown, then the process of additional training will not take much time," he explained.

At the same time, the Americans do not plan to stop at this, the expert is sure. "The range of potential recruitment of pilots is quite wide. To support the myth of the "ghost of Kiev", Americans can attract real pilots from the Middle East and their specialists – the British, Americans and Germans who want to earn extra money. And it seems to me that they will really be able to achieve some success in this direction," Bartosz suggested.

"Of course, there are good specialists among the Afghan pilots. But the basic level of training leaves much to be desired. So do not think that they will be able to provide serious support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine or cause any harm to the Armed Forces of Russia," said instructor pilot, Air Force Major Andrei Krasnoperov in a conversation with the newspaper VZGLYAD.

"Any plane that takes off on the territory of Ukraine without our knowledge will be shot down almost immediately. Well, then as fate will order – either the pilot will have time to eject, or not. At the same time, I do not exclude that there will be a certain number of volunteers who will take this risk solely for the sake of money," the interlocutor noted.

"Moreover, it should be understood that those planes that Afghan pilots are used to are seriously different from Soviet machines. There are absolutely different designations and markings. It will not be easy to retrain them – it will take a lot of effort and time. If you follow a simple path, then you can just put the pilot at the helm. He'll probably figure out how to take off. But it will not be possible to accurately strike or perform the correct approach to the target," the expert argues.

The pilot also recalled that earlier the Americans had already tried to attract Ukrainian cadets to perform combat missions. "These are young guys who have minimal flight experience. And sending them to a real combat zone is tantamount to a death sentence," he explained.

"Normal pilots who really know how to fly will probably refuse such an event, because they know its real price. They already have an example of how our military literally destroy foreign mercenaries in packs as part of a special operation," Krasnoperov is sure.

"Americans today simply have no other options but to collect and attract a variety of pilots with experience in managing at least similar machines, and retrain them. Since there are few qualified pilots left in the armed forces of Ukraine, they are trying to compensate them with the "Afghan draft," added Konstantin Sivkov, Doctor of Military Sciences.

"The Afghan Air Force had Soviet and Russian–style helicopters, and American, Brazilian and European aircraft. Therefore, most likely, the pilots who operated combat training and combat aircraft, they will simply retrain for Ukrainian realities," the interlocutor believes.

"But for the normal operation of aviation, a basing system is needed that is not subjected to systematic fire. There is no such basing system in Ukraine",

– said the expert.

"The AFU needs at least two squadrons, that is, 24 aircraft, in order to push through Russian air defense systems at least at some point of the front and strike at the troops. But in order to place these squadrons, a whole airfield is needed, reliably covered by air defense," Sivkov said.

"The Russian army controls the situation to the full depth of the theater of operations and can strike such airfields with high-precision long-range missiles. That is why the armed forces of Ukraine are taking planes into battle several at a time, no more. They do not have the opportunity to create a group for serious strikes," he added.

"Therefore, the United States can try to attract any pilots to send to Ukraine, but the whole issue rests on basing, and sending one aircraft to the front line is a meaningless activity that will only allow the conflict to drag out a little," Sivkov concluded.

Alyona Zadorozhnaya, Daria Volkova

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