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  • Writer's pictureFrank Visser

2004 Apaches over Kabul

Updated: Feb 3, 2018

Frank Visser visited 1 NL Helodet, the Dutch helicopter detachment flying the AH-64D Apache under the ISAF flag from Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.

To secure peace and stability in Afghanistan and help the interim government prepare for the forthcoming parliamentary elections now scheduled for April 2005, two military operations are currently under way: Operation Enduring Freedom under command of the United States of America, and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led by NATO under a mandate from the United Nations.

Dutch Apaches

The RNLAF operates 29 AH-64D Apaches and the detachment to Afghanistan marks their third operational use.

In the past few months, the four aircraft of 1 NL Helodet have been mainly deployed on reconnaissance missions and to demonstrate a visible presence, as a 'show of force'. They have also helped in the arrest of armed militants, conducted searches of suspect vehicles and arms depots, and operated as a swift reaction force to combat rocket launches: on Quick Reaction Force (QRF) missions: the Apaches must be airborne within 15 minutes.

The helicopters have also been used to provide an armed escort for VIPs, to lend air support to ground forces, protect military and civilian vehicle convoys and transport helicopters, and to provide forward air control for artillery batteries.

The diversity of tasks requires a very high state of alert and generates a large number of flying hours. Including the QRFs, the Apaches of 1 NL Helodet flew an average of 190 hours per month, and by October 31 had clocked up some 600 missions totalling 1.370 flying hours. An ISAF formation over Kabul.

An ISAF formation over Kabul.

One of the RNLAF AH-64Ds, Q-20 crashed near Kabul and was written of on August 29.

Photo: Dutch Ministry of Defence

The presence of ISAF troops in the Kabul region has made it one of the most stable in Afghanistan. Here a UN Mi-17 takes off from Kabul International Airport.


On August 20, 2004 the Dutch Government decided to extend the detachment by six months, with the result that 1 NL Helodet will stay at Kabul International Airport until at least the end of March 2005. The main reason for the extension is the forthcoming Afghan parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2005, which could result in increased tension.

See publications 2004 for a full report.

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