RNLAF Apaches Move Base in Afghanistan

ROYAL NETHERLANDS Air Force (RNLAF) AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopters deployed to Afghanistan have moved their base from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan. The six Apaches from 301 Squadron made the 30-minute flight to their new home on October 20, whilst still maintaining readiness to provide support for any operations, if required, during the move. Stationing the helicopters at Tarin Kowt will move them much closer to the Dutch ground troops deployed there, enabling them to provide protection when needed in a shorter space of time. A new apron has been constructed at their new base which can accommodate all six Apaches, and a large maintenance tent erected. Technical and support personnel were transferred to the new location by RNLAF/300 Squadron Cougar helicopters, which will remain based at Kandahar. The RNLAF AH-64Ds have been in Afghanistan since May 1 (see RNLAF Helicopters Deploy to Afghanistan, June, p10) supporting the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Uruzgan and other Coalition partners in the south of the country.

In other changes to the RNLAF assets deployed in the region, the 334 Squadron C-130H detached to Kabul International Airport returned to Eindhoven on October 20, exactly a year to the day after the deployment began. During its stay in Afghanistan, the Hercules accumulated almost 1,000 flying hours in 805 missions, but it will now be replaced by other aircraft from the ISAF transport pool.

Although the Dutch Apaches have moved out of Kandahar, the base will gain further RNLAF aircraft in November, when the Dutch F-16 detachment supporting ISAF moves in from its current base at Kabul International Airport. Based at Kabul since March 2005, originally with six F-16s, the RNLAF detachment was enlarged to eight aircraft in May 2006, but is scheduled to reduce to six again when it transfers to Kandahar (see RNLAF Helicopters Deploy to Afghanistan, June, p10). However, it will remain at its current strength of eight aircraft for the foreseeable future, due to the growing resistance encountered from the Taliban.

In addition, since July, the RNLAF F-16s’ reconnaissance capabilities have been boosted by the arrival of two Medium Altitude Reconnaissance System (MARS) pods, support equipment and additional photographic interpretation personnel. The Dutch government recently announced it was to send another 130 personnel to Afghanistan, increasing the total number of Dutch military serving in the south of the country to 1,730 by November.

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