(NSI News Source Info) February 21, 2009: Military officials are fond of describing helicopters as a "key enabler" that is often in short supply in Afghanistan. Almost two years ago, Royal Netherlands Maj. Gen. Ton van Loon, commander of NATO's Regional Command-South, complained: "One of the resources that we could never have enough of in this very large country, with very low infrastructure levels, [is] aviation. ... We can never have enough. It is clearly also something that we have to rely on the American aviation assets [for] heavily.
We're very glad for the Americans' support of the efforts in RC-South with a large helicopter force, and we badly need them to be able to do the operations." When the Marine Corps returned to Afghanistan last year, they brought a Marine Air-Ground
Task Force with a pretty significant complement of helicopters (pictured here).
But NATO and U.S. forces have looked to contracted aircraft to fill some of the gaps. NATO decided to lease civilian helicopters in late 2007; and the Army hired Blackwater Worldwide Xe to do "low cost/low altitude" airdrop of cargo pallets to isolated combat outposts. Carson helicopters, a firm that operates heavy-lift helicopters for firefighting and construction, recently signed a deal with to haul supplies for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The Mail Tribune, a southern Oregon paper, reports that the company will provide seven Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, along with parts and maintenance, to a partner company contracted by the Pentagon. Their partner?
While Carson would not say, the Mail Tribune cited court documents and Department of Defense records that show the contract is with Presidential Airways, a subsidiary of the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide.