ISR and fire-support are two key missions the U.S. currently provides, Thomas said. The PC-12 may be able to replace that.
Top military officers have said the Afghan's ability to respond by helicopter is an essential tool for battlefield medical evacuations – another feature of the air wing – which will define whether the 12-year war will become a success.
"The U.S. is better than anybody in the world at providing these resources," John Nagl, a former Army officer and brain behind the military's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, told U.S. News last week. "They are expensive, complicated, technologically demanding, and the [Afghans] are going to have a hard time delivering [them]."
Afghans fly the Mi-17 because they're more rugged than their American counterparts and can fly more safely at high altitudes than smaller helicopters, analysts say.