Many of the weapons available to Afghanistan are remnants of the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, either left by the Soviet forces or supplied by the USA to the mujaheddin. At the start of the US strikes the Taliban air force had five Aero L-39 Albatros and 20-odd Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbeds and Sukhoi Su-20/22 Fitters, perhaps eight of which were serviceable. The Northern Alliance possibly has all types, but it is unclear whether the aircraft are airworthy. Both sides have Soviet-built transports, principally Antonov An-24Cokes, and Mil Mi-8 Hips and Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopters.

The Taliban has access to Fakel S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) and/or Almaz S-125 Neva (SA-3 Goa) surface to air missile systems. More dangerous, particularly to any helicopter-borne airmobile forces, are a plethora of man-portable air defence systems (manpads) - Raytheon Stinger and Strela 2/2M/3s (SA-7 Grail/SA-14 Gremlin) - and heavy machine guns. A favoured mujaheddin tactic was to entice Soviet helicopters into valleys where they would be ambushed by manpads from the valley floor and machine guns from above on the mountain sides.

Ground targets include elderly T-54/55/62 main battle tanks and armoured personnel carrier types, artillery and Katyusha rocket systems.

Source: Flight International