Although limited in number and quality, airpower played a key role during the Third Afghan War.
The RAF had arrived to the Frontier in 1916, for the Mohmand campaing and also against the Mahsuds in 1917. In 1919, the only aircraft available on the Frontier was 31 Squadron at Risalpur, east of Peshawar, that was equipped with BE2C of limited performance, and a flight of 114 Squadron at Quetta, also equipped with BE2C.
These machines were obsolete and worn out airplanes with so a low climbing power that they could be shot from the hill tops as they passed along the valleys. On the other hand, their moral effect was great and the bombing of Dakka, Jalalabad and especially Kabul, were factors that "help" the Amir Amanullah to decide about to sue for peace.
There were a total of five RAF squadrons deployed in the war, equipped with BE2C, Bristol F2B, De Haviland DH9A and De Haviland DH bombers. They allowed the British to extend their reach well beyond the border, bombing Kabul itself but also harassing the retreating and defeated Afghan regulars and breaking up tribesmen forming larger groups prior the launching of an attack.
They proved the value of the modern air-power in long range reconnaisance missions, in the bombing concentrations of tribesmen, supply depots and transport columns, but they were not really useful in the short range, tactical, reconnaisance, in which the enemy could hide in hearing their aproach, so bodies of the enemy were difficult to locate and negative information about them must be regarded with suspicion.
It can be said that the most important element was their moral effect over the Afghan hearts and minds. For example, the single-plane raid on the Amir´s palace that took place on 24 May 1919 caused little real damage but greatly impacted the morale of the Afghan people and of Amanullah himself, helping him to go to the negotiating table.
|The raid over Kabul|
During the course of the war, British aircraft losses were of one plane crashed and two shot down. A not small price against a primitive foe.
I have an 1/48 BE2C that I bought a lot of years ago for my "Back of Beyond" games; it can be a good moment to prepare it for another war...