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The Bush administration’s plans to increase the U.S. military role in Afghanistan include a $100 million expansion next year of the Kandahar airfield, to accommodate aircraft working for Task Force ODIN, the once-secret Army fighting units that have been successful in Iraq.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a notice issued Thursday, has set Wednesday as the “tentative” date for putting out the contract to design and build a secure area for the aircraft. It will have facilities, hangars, ramps and taxiways “for up to twenty-six (26) generic Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft with shelters at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.”
Task Force ODIN — the acronym derives from “observe, detect, identify and neutralize” — is named for the chief Norse god of art, culture, war and the dead. The Army put the ODIN concept together last year to tackle the problem of roadside explosions, which had become the main method of attacking military and truck convoys. In September, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told Congress that he wanted to replicate the ODIN units in Afghanistan as soon as possible.
ODIN began with a small, sensor-carrying civilian aircraft, the Beech C-12, and a variety of unmanned surveillance vehicles equipped with night-vision, infrared and full-motion video. The entire team was linked to infantry units and Apache attack helicopters armed with missiles and machine guns.