Afghanistan hustles in pursuit of 2033 vision

08 February 2019

The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) is moving rapidly to build up its regulatory and technological capabilities for airspace management, despite the ongoing military conflict in the country.

A national economic development strategy for 2019–33 envisages an “important role” for aviation, said Mohammed Qasem Wafayezada, deputy minister for planning and policy in the Afghan government. Speaking in January during the Global Aviation Summit in Mumbai, he described a “self-sustaining [Afghan] aviation sector that is safe and fully complies with all ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] practices”.

Mohammed Qasem Wafayezada, Deputy Minister for Planning and Policy in the Afghan government. (Neelam Mathews)Mohammed Qasem Wafayezada, Deputy Minister for Planning and Policy in the Afghan government. (Neelam Mathews)

However, he added, the ACAA is “struggling with meeting ICAO standards and preparing for an ICAO audit by 2020. That is why we are in such a hustle”.

Since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States and its allies in the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have taken primary responsibility for airspace management in the country while they worked to re-establish indigenous regulatory structures.

The US Federal Aviation Administration helped to form the ACAA in 2013, and it also assisted in the development of aviation laws and regulations for the country. The ACAA is established by law as an independent agency responsible for air navigation services and airport operations in Afghanistan. In September 2015, NATO fully handed over air traffic control operations to the Afghan air navigation service provider.

A nationwide ADS-B system with wide area multilateration (WAM) has been in operation since 2014, helping the ACAA to handle rising overflight traffic.

The Thales-supplied network of 35 ADS-B/WAM ground stations provides en route surveillance coverage nationwide over a 540×350 n mile area, including Herat, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif airports. Thales supplied the equipment and is maintaining it under a contract approved by the government on 3 February 2019.

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