Kandahar Air Field

Kandahar Air Field

Kandahar Air Field and Australian Defence Force (ADF) elements. Location: 31°30’21″N 65°50’52″E.


Kandahar Air Field has been the base for the ADF Ch-47 Chinook Helicopter detachment since March 2006. The two Chinooks were withdrawn in early 2007 for refurbishing, and the helicopters and crew returned to Australia in April 2007. In February 2008 the aircraft and crew re-deployed to Kandahar. RAAF Mobile Control and Reporting Unit deployed to Kandahar Air Field mid-2007, and was established as the RAAF Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) in August 2007. In April 2007 the Australian government announced its intention to deploy an RAAF air surveillance radar capability to Kandahar. A detachment from 114 Mobile Control and Reporting Unit RAAF based in Darwin, from the Surveillance and Response Group will deploy to Kandahar Air Field. 114MRCU is equipped with AN/TPS-77 mobile phased array radar. In July 2009 the RAAF Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) returned control of Afghanistan airspace to a remotely located United States facility.

Government sources

Visit to Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar. Defence Sub-Committee visit to the Middle East Area of Operations Report of the Delegation to the MEAO 14 to 18 May 2011



5.4 Australia’s force elements in KAF are based at CAMP Baker, which provides hardened accommodation for the members. Those based at CAMP Baker work in locations spread across the airfield. The following ADF elements were based on KAF at the time of the visit:

  • Rotary Wing Group (RWG);
  • Heron Detachment;
  • Force Support Team;
  • Elements of SOTG;
  • Elements of FCU; and
  • ADF, Defence Civilian and Other Government Agency (OGA) Embeds in various HQs on KAF

Observations from the visit to Rotary Wing Group 

5.7 The key personnel hosting and briefing the delegation were as follows:

  • Commanding Officer RWG: Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan;
  • Executive Officer RWG: Major Lewis;
  • Officer Commanding Technical Support Troop: Captain Wing;
  • Troop Commander and Pilot: Captain Weatherstone; and
  • Pilot: Captain Hodda.

5.8 On arrival at Mustang Ramp the delegation was met by Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan. He led the delegation for a tour of the RWG facilities, followed by a CH47D capability briefing and walk around of the aircraft. Key unclassified discussion points were as follows: 

  • RWG only has 2 x CH47D (Chinooks) in theatre and they operate as part of a larger US Army Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) based out of KAF. The CAB is made up of lift helicopters, reconnaissance and attack aviation capabilities and provides support to all RC(S) ISAF units.
  • RWG only deploy for 9 months of each year to coincide with the summer fighting season.

RWG raised the issue that they are only allocated 720 flying hours between two airframes for the deployment. These hours are not an additional operational allocation, rather they come out of the normal budget allocated for raise, train and sustainment of the capability in Australia.

This constraint is due to the servicing requirements of the CH47 and its associated costs. The deep maintenance servicing is only conducted in Australia, whereas the US Army conducts its equivalent servicing at KAF via a contractor, thus negating the need to return the aircraft to the US for this service.

RWG personnel discussed the impending replacement of the CH47D with CH47G in 2014 for the Australian Army. The current 6 x CH47D will be replaced by 7 x CH47G. The staff raised the preference for 13 x CH47G which would provide a more sustainable capability. The additional airframes would improve the current raise, train and sustain issues being faced by their home unit due to the operational tempo of the airframes and this increase would provide the Australian Government with additional flexibility for operations in the future.

5.9 The delegation was also provided a classified brief by embedded Australian Staff within the HQ of the CAB. This was followed by a walk around and brief on the US Army’s Apache attack helicopter and its Kiowa Warrior reconnaissance helicopter.

Observations from the visit to the Heron Detachment 

5.10 The key personnel hosting and briefing the delegation were as follows:

  • Commanding Officer Heron Detachment: Wing Commander McMullan;
  • Administration Officer: Flight Lieutenant Rinaldi; and
  • Senior Intelligence Officer: Flight Lieutenant Wilson.

5.11 On arrival at the Heron Detachment’s location the delegation was met by Wing Commander McMullan. The delegation was provided a classified brief followed by a tour of the Detachment’s classified capabilities and facilities. 

5.12 The key unclassified discussion points were as follows:  

  1. The Heron is an unmanned aerial vehicle used for over ground Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and is tasked to only support Australian forces in Uruzgan and surrounding provinces.
  2. RAAF have 3 x Heron airframes on lease in theatre.
  3. The capability available can fly 2 x Heron airframes simultaneously.
  4. The Detachment’s pilots have to comply with normal ADF flight rules, e.g. flying hours per day.
  5. The Heron Airframe has a very effective day and night capability.

The cavemen are busy today, Image Galleries 2009, Operation Slipper, Department of Defence, 15 May 2009

The Rotary Wing Group operate from Kandahar, in Afghanistan’s south. The two dark Australian machines are nestled among Dutch Chinooks, almost bright green in comparison, and a row of new pale Khaki US CH-47Fs. To describe Kandahar Airfield as bustling is a euphemism. It is expected that, with the influx of US forces into Afghanistan, one aircraft will, on average, lift off or land on the airfield every three minutes. Simply put, it is the busiest airfield on the globe. At night, the strip sounds busier, with jets, prop aircraft and helicopters crossing the airfield constantly. “We recently had a C-17 land every five minutes,” CFN Chapman says. He is reclining on a timber deck mounted on two iso containers. From the deck the airfield stretches away, a concrete ribbon lined with Black Hawks, Chinooks, Kiowas, Sea Kings and Apaches. Across the airstrip are parked white Mi-8s, while at the far end a colossal Mi-26 sits, brooding in the sun and dwarfing the machines arrayed beside it.


Kandahar / Qandahar Airfield

Firebase Gecko

31°30’21″N 65°50’52″E, GlobalSecurity.org

Detailed account of the airfield, its history and development and present role, photos and satellite imagery.

Kandahar Air Field - Google Earth

Source: Google Earth

Kandahar International Airport, Wikipedia

Kandahar Airfield, Uruzgan Weblog [pub suspended]

Kandahar Airport, Afghanistan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation

Detailed current technical information, photos and map. “Airfield is 10 miles (16 km) SE of Kandahar, just west of Kandahar-spin Baldak road, 43 miles (69 km) NW of Pakistan border, and 96 miles (154 km) NW of Quetta Pakistan. Airfield is sometimes difficult to locate from the air due to a lack of contrast with ground and usual dust and haze in area.” Location: N31° 30′ 49.10″, E65° 51′ 39.80″

Kandahar Air Base [Google Earth*]

* Google Earth (free download) required.

Kandahar Airfield Satellite Imagery, GlobalSecurity.org

Airfield maps, and US military satellite imagery before and after 2001 attacks.

Kandahar City Map, AIMS, February 2005 [273KB-PDF]

Kandahar Area (topographic map in Russian) Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

Portion of Soviet General Staff map H-41-VI 1985 (776K), original scale 1:200,000.

RAF Regiment go on foot to make a difference in Kandahar, Defence News, UK MOD, 29 Aug 06

Useful description local combat conditions and RAF activities.

Afghanistan’s fastest-growing city, Kandahar Airfield, Nukes and Spooks, Washington Post blog, 26 July 2009

If you want to see rapid economic development and growth in Afghanistan, the cities are not the place to go. Instead, head due south, about an hour south of Kandahar to here, Kandahar Airfield, or KAF. With the Obama administration’s decision to “surge” an additional 17,500 troops plus 4,000 trainers and the influx of civilians, the massive military base is quickly expanding. This is seemingly hard to believe to anyone who has been here before. There already are several gyms, hair salons and game rooms. Most notably, there is a massive boardwalk where you can eat Subway, Pizza Hut or Burger King all while watching the Canadians play hockey in a large ring situated nearby.

I worry what this all looks like to the Afghans. At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates often talks about how the coalition cannot look like an occupation. I don’t see how Afghans can look at the expansion of KAF, particularly as their quality of life deteriorates, as anything but. At the minimum, this place is about as far from the everyday Afghan and infantrymen’s experience as one can get.

See also:

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Updated: 9 July 2013