Pentagon Signs New Russian Helicopter Deal
Russia and the United States have signed a contract for the delivery of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan army, a Russian government agency said Monday.
The Russian state-owned defense firm Rosoboronexport and the US Department of the Army signed the contract on Sunday in Paris “as part of joint efforts to combat terrorism,” Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said in a statement.
It did not say exactly how many helicopters were to be delivered, but Rosoboronexport deputy head Alexander Mikheyev told RIA Novosti that the contract was for 30 Mi-17V5 helicopters. He said the value could not be disclosed, according to the contract’s terms.
Both parties expressed hope for an expansion of cooperation in the defense and technology sector, the statement said, adding that Russia was committed to its “international security policy and ready for any form of collaboration in that area.”
In February, US President Barack Obama announced plans to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 66,000 to 34,000 over the following year, leaving Afghan forces with an increased role in their nation’s security.
In 2011, Rosoboronexport and the US Defense Department signed a $367.5 million contract for the delivery of 21 Mi-17V5 helicopters to Afghanistan. The full value of that contract, including the delivery of spare parts and servicing, was about $900 million. The agreement carried the option of buying an additional 12 helicopters. Rosoboronexport helicopter export department head Grigory Kozlov later told RIA Novosti that an additional agreement for the delivery of those 12 helicopters was signed and the helicopters would be handed over to the customer before the end of the current year.
The US Department of Defense said in April that it planned to sidestep a Congressional ban to purchase from Rosoboronexport 30 additional Mi-17 rotary-wing aircraft to support the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) Special Mission Wing, despite US lawmakers’ allegation that the Russian firm had equipped the Syrian government to commit brutal crimes against civilians. The Pentagon decided to buy more helicopters from Rosoboronexport after it failed to find an alternative because many Afghan servicemen had already been trained to operate the Russian aircraft, Pentagon spokesman James Gregory told RIA Novosti in emailed comments.
The US Army confirmed it plans to purchase 30 medium-lift Mil Mi-17 'Hip' transport helicopters for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in a 17 June contract announcement.
The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract with state-controlled Rosoboronexport in Moscow covers helicopters, spare parts, test equipment, and engineering support services - it is valued at USD572 million.
The helicopters are to be used by the Afghan National Security Forces Special Mission Wing, an aviation unit that supports counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and special operations missions.
Work will be performed in Russia and is expected to be complete by 31 December 2014.
Awarding contracts to Rosoboronexport for Mi-17 helicopters has raised controversy in the United States because of the company's dealings with the Bashar Assad regime in Syria.
Source: MOSCOW, RIA Novosti / janes News - 17 June 2013
Photo: The US Pentagon Signs New Russian Mi-17V5 Helicopter Deal (Photo by webring.org)