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Uzbekistan Agrees Transit Deal with RAF

Thursday 6 December 2012

TASHKENT (RIA Novsoti) – The Uzbek Higher Chamber has approved a deal allowing Britain’s Royal Air Force to use the country’s airspace to move its equipment out of Afghanistan north through Central Asia and Russia.

U.K. service members of the Royal Air Force Regiment stop on a road while conducting a combat mission near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 2, 2010.
(Photo: Efren Lopez, U.S. Air Force)
In Afghanistan the RAF Regiment and RAF Police provide Force Protection around Kandahar airfield. Vital support also comes from a variety of other ground trades both deployed to Afghanistan and spread around the Persian Gulf region. These deployed trades include aircraft, weapons and ground engineering, administration, communications, supply, medical, intelligence, bomb disposal, airfield maintenance, air traffic, air movements, meteorological and transportation personnel.

The agreement stops short of permitting RAF aircraft to land on Uzbek territory. If they have to make an emergency landing, the British authorities must notify the Uzbek side about the need to land on the republic’s territory.

This deal enhances Central Asia’s strategic importance to NATO which can therefore avoid Pakistan, previously its transit route of choice. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier said the agreements with the Central Asian republics “will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need.”

The reverse transit agreement between NATO and three Central Asian countries – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – is restricted to “non-lethal goods”.

The RAF’s involvement in Afghanistan dates back to October 2001 when its aircraft provided reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling capabilities in support of US strike aircraft on Operation Enduring Freedom. Currently, it is in Southern Afghanistan that the RAF is providing major support in order to aid the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in its mission of facilitating reconstruction and the extension of government authority. This support comes in a number of different forms and comprises about 850 RAF personnel: tactical reconnaissance and close air support is provided by Tornado GR4 Force; in-theatre airlift is provided by the RAF C130s and supplemented by Comms Fleet aircraft, including the HS125 and BAe 146; air refuelling support for Coalition aircraft is provided by the VC10, while the Sentinel R1 and MQ-9 Reaper play a large part in delivering ISTAR support. RAF Chinook and Merlin Helicopters form part of the Joint Helicopter Force in Afghanistan and are the backbone for the provision of tactical mobility for Land forces. As in Iraq, essential support is given by the RAF Strategic Air Transport fleet with the Tristar and C17 moving essential men and material into and out of the region.

Britain has an estimated £3 bln worth of equipment to bring home from Afghanistan. Some of the armoured vehicles will have a long-term role in the Army.

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