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Peterson hosts Afghan pilots and 81st FS for high altitude training

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Two pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Ga. and an Afghan pilot walk to several A-29B Super Tucanos to prepare  for high altitude training Sept. 16, 2015 here. Four Afghani pilots have been training with the 81st FS on the aircraft since January in Georgia and came to Peterson to get training and experience in high altitude and mountainous terrain. After the training, both the American and Afghan pilots will go to Afghanistan to help establish fighter squadrons. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Two instructor pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Ga. and an Afghan pilot walk to several A-29B Super Tucanos to prepare for high altitude training Sept. 16, 2015 here. Nine Afghan pilots have been training with the 81st FS on the aircraft since January in Georgia and came to Peterson to experience high density altitude and mountainous terrain operations. After completing their training in the U.S., both the American and Afghan pilots will go to Afghanistan to help establish an Afghan A-29 fighter squadron. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – An Afghan pilot and an instructor pilot with the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Ga., get ready to take off in an A-29B Super Tucano for high altitude training here, Sept. 16, 2015. Afghan pilots have been training with the 81st FS to become better pilots and to take the knowledge back to Afghanistan and stand up their own fighter squadron. The training at Peterson helped both student and instructor to get experience in high altitude and mountainous terrain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – An Afghan pilot and an instructor pilot with the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Ga., get ready to take off in an A-29B Super Tucano for high altitude training here, Sept. 16, 2015. Afghan pilots have been training with the 81st FS to become qualified in the A-29 and to take the knowledge back to Afghanistan and stand up their own fighter squadron. The training at Peterson helped the students gain experience in high altitude and mountainous terrain operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Afghan maintainers check over an A-29B Super Tucano before taking off for high altitude training Sept. 16, 2015 in Colorado. Pilots with the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Ga. have been working with Afghan pilots since January and came to Peterson to train in the high altitude and mountainous terrain. After the Afghan pilot training is complete, they will go back to Afghanistan to establish their own fighter squadron based off the infrastructure of the US Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. –Sierra Nevada Corporation maintenance personnel check over an A-29B Super Tucano before taking off for high altitude training Sept. 16, 2015 in Colorado. Pilots with the 81st Fighter Squadron out of Moody Air Force Base, Ga. have been training with Afghan pilots since January and came to Peterson to train at high-altitude and in mountainous terrain. After the Afghan pilot training is complete, they will go back to Afghanistan to establish their own fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – An Afghan maintainer waits as an 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and Afghan pilot get ready to take off for high altitude training Sept. 16, 2015 at Peterson Air Force Base. Afghan pilots have been training with the 81st FS at Moody AFB, Ga. with A-29B Super Tucanos and came to Peterson for the high altitude and mountainous terrain training that can then be taken back to their home country. Training was for both Afghan pilots and 81st FS instructor pilots to gain more knowledge and instructor techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A Sierra Nevada Corporation maintainer waits as an 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot and Afghan pilot get ready to take off for high-altitude training here Sept. 16, 2015. Afghan pilots have been training with the 81st FS at Moody AFB, Ga. with A-29B Super Tucanos and came to Peterson for the high-altitude and mountainous terrain training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Afghan pilots and U.S. Air Force instructor pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. came to Peterson AFB for several weeks in September for high-altitude training in the mountainous terrain.

Since the beginning of 2015, nine Afghan pilots have been training with the 81st FS to receive basic flight training and tactical training to learn to fly and fight in the A-29B Super Tucano, as well as learn how U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons operate in order to stand up their own squadron when they get back to Afghanistan.

The 81st FS is a stateside air advisor unit with both a stateside and deployed mission, said Lt. Col. Jeff Hogan, 81st FS commander. When the first group of Afghan pilots and maintainers finish their year-long training, the 81st FS will send Air Force pilots and maintainers to Afghanistan to provide advisory support.

"We'll have a constant rotational presence in Afghanistan, mentoring them as they stand up this new capability," he said.

The end result of this training is for Afghanistan to have its own fighter force that is capable of self-sustained combat operations. Hogan said the U.S. Air Force has been in the lead in mentoring the Afghan air force as it reestablishes itself after the 2001 invasion.

"The U.S. Air Force is uniquely postured with the capacity and the know-how to train our international partners," Hogan said. "It's a core (Air Education and Training Command) competency. We train thousands of international students a year, leveraging the best training in the world."

The training the Afghan pilots get will help them stand up their own sustainable fighter squadron and be able to provide aerial fire support for their ground forces, Hogan said. To achieve that, the 81st FS is training them on four different missions, including close air attack, air interdiction, helicopter and convoy escort, and armed reconnaissance.

The aircraft the pilots trained on will go with them to Afghanistan when the pilots return home at the end of their training, said an 81st FS instructor pilot. It will replace the old Mi-35 attack helicopter that is nearing the end of its service life and doesn't have the capability of the A-29.

The training so far has been at Moody Air Force Base, which has an elevation of around 200 feet and doesn't compare to the high elevation in Afghanistan, he said. To get the pilots more realistic training, they came to Peterson.

As with any aircraft, performance is lower at a higher altitude, the instructor pilot said. The air is less dense, so aircraft take longer to accelerate and get off the ground. Peterson provides the high elevation and rising terrain for Afghan pilots to gain experience before going back to Afghanistan.

"Peterson afforded us some great facilities," said Hogan. "We're very thankful for the support we've received here. This is probably the place that most closely approximates the Afghan environment from a terrain and elevation perspective. We are very thankful for the warm welcome we have received."

Hogan said the most satisfying part of this training is knowing they're building another county's air force and the pilots are going to do well because of the training they received.

"This airplane will allow us to start to step away from Afghanistan," Hogan said. "When they can provide their own organic fires, support their own soldiers in the field and provide them with close air support - that will be the major turning point that allows the Afghans to be successful on the battlefield and ultimately take responsibility for their own future."

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