The pace for U.S. and international aircrews in Afghanistan has slowed dramatically as Afghan forces have increased their role in the sky, new stats from Air Forces Central Command show.
There were 382 close air support weapons releases in June, down from 521 during the same month last year. So far this year, there have been 1,782 weapons releases, compared with 4,084 for all of last year.
And it isn’t just airstrikes that have dropped. In 2013, there have been 294 casualty evacuation sorties, including 96 saves. Last year, there were 2,171 casualty evacs with 1,187 saves.
The drop in numbers does not mean there are fewer casualty evacuations in total, but that the Afghan Air Force is taking the lead and responding more to incidents, according to the International Security Assistance Force.
“The Afghanistan Air Force has reached a tremendous level right now. Let me give you just one example: They are doing 30 percent more CASEVAC operations than at the end of last year, and they were able to reduce response times to only hours compared to 72 hours last year,” ISAF spokesman German Brig. Gen. Heinz Feldmann said in a July briefing in Kabul. “So they are well doing their job and the things are running smoothly right now.”
Airdrop missions and total cargo also have fallen so far this year. ISAF crews have flown 11,590 airlift missions, dropping 110,800 tons by June 30, compared with 37,611 total airlift flights with 240,656 cargo tons all of last year.
The number of casualty evacuations and mobility sorties will continue to fall on the ISAF side as the Afghan forces continue to gain more capability and additional airframes, including C-130s in the fall, ISAF commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a June briefing.
AFCENT still is not releasing a breakdown of weapons releases by remotely piloted aircraft after abruptly reversing its decision to post the stats earlier this year. The Defense Department has said that the RPA stats are available by Freedom of Information Request.
A May 20 request from Air Force Times for these statistics is still pending.