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Friday, August 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: NATO Afghanistan Campaign Lacks Vertical Lift

MILITARY

NATO commanders in Afghanistan are struggling to overcome a significant shortage of vertical-lift capability in their fight against Taliban forces.

The shortage is not entirely a lack of helicopters, military leaders of the alliance said in recent weeks. A big part of the problem is an inability to access the military helicopters that members of the alliance already have in their fleets.

Speaking in early July at the the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna, U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock said the alliance needs "substantial numbers" of medium- and heavy-lift helicopters in Afghanistan. NATO’s current supreme allied commander of Europe, Craddock said the alliance has been leasing commercial helicopters for non-combat medium and heavy lift, but "that is not something we want to do," especially since member nations have vertical-lift assets available.

That points to the larger problem facing the alliance effort in Afghanistan. Its members have placed 80 or so specific restrictions on how their individual forces may be used there.

"These constrain the flexibility of commanders," Craddock said.

NATO officials estimate they could boost their helicopter resources more than 20 percent simply through less constrained and better coordinated operations in Afghanistan.

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