Russia-US copter deal for Afghan war
Russian-made Mil Mi-17 helicopters
Russian arms export corporation Rosoboronexport has signed a $300 million deal with US Defense Department to supply 21 Mil Mi-17 multirole helicopters to Afghanistan for use in US-led military operations.
“It is the first large contract Russia signed directly with the US Department of Defense,” Sergei Prikhodko, a foreign policy aide to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, told RIA Novosti news agency on Saturday.
He added that the deal was sealed during the G8 summit in Deauville, France, that ended Saturday.
“The contract marks a major step in closer practical cooperation between Russia and the US to improve the combat capability of the Afghan army,” Prikhodko noted.
The helicopter deliveries will start this October and will be completed in the course of 2012.
Apart from the helicopters, the contract stipulates delivery of spare parts, ground support equipment, and maintenance support.
The contract comes as the United States and Russia have been in talks for more than a year on the deal to provide the much needed helicopters for the US-led NATO missions in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, observers argue that despite the claim that the aircraft is purchased for the Afghan army, it is highly unlikely that the Afghan force will actually have any control or access to the choppers.
The Mil Mi-17 is a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter. It is an export version of the Mil Mi-8 helicopter and can transport up to 37 individuals.
The Russian-made aircraft is currently in production at two factories in Kazan, the capital city of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, and Ulan-Ude, the capital city of Russian Republic of Buryatia.