US buys Russian helicopters for Afghanistan military
In an effort to arm Afghanistan‘s security forces with new helicopters, the Pentagon bypassed American companies and turned instead to Moscow for dozens of Russian Mi-17 rotorcraft at a cost of more than $1 billion.
Senior Pentagon officials assured skeptical members of Congress that the Defense Department had made the right call. They repeatedly cited a top-secret 2010 study they said named the Mi-17 as the superior choice.
A senior department official said the study was focused on long-term requirements and not the immediate needs of the Afghan military, which were best met by the Mi-17. Also, US commanders in Afghanistan wanted the Mi-17 because it is durable, easy-to-operate and the Afghan forces had experience flying it, according to the official, who was not authorized to be identified as the source of the information.
There's no dispute that heavy-duty helicopters capable of quickly moving Afghan troops and supplies are essential to accomplishing that mission.
The armed Mi-17s being purchased for Afghanistan from Rosoboronexport will replace older and less capable Mi-17s the US and other countries had purchased from brokers and contractors through the open market and then donated or loaned to the Afghans.
The fact that the Afghan forces had years of experience flying the Mi-17 figured prominently in the Pentagon’s decision.
An extensive analysis of both helicopters concluded a refurbished Chinook would cost about 40 percent more overall to buy and maintain than the Russian helicopter, the senior defense official said.
Voice of Russia, Ya Libnan, csmonitor.com