Washington DC (SPX) May 16, 2011
The U.S. Army is acquiring and sustaining Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters for Iraqi and Afghan forces so they can further stand up their respective militaries and enable more U.S. forces to return home, service officials said.
"We're buying those systems because our (servicemembers) don't get to come home until (Iraqi and Afghan militaries) take over the mission and are trained to do it," said Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, who serves as program executive officer for aviation. "There's incentive for us right now."
The aircraft purchases are at the request of both the Department of State and the Department of Defense.
The U.S. Army's Non-Standard Rotary Wing program office plans to acquire 21 new Mi-17s for Afghanistan. The office has already bought 22 of the aircraft for Iraq, of which 14 have been delivered, said Col. Norbert Vergez, who heads up the project.
In addition, U.S.-based Northrop Grumman is performing maintenance and sustainment on 52 existing Mi-17s in Afghanistan, Vergez said.
"The primary consideration was based on a desire by the customer, in the case of Afghanistan, to have a platform that they were familiar with and that was simple and easy to operate," Vergez said. "They wanted something that was immediately available for them to assimilate into their armed forces."
The Mi-17 was originally designed by the Russians in the 1970s. The helicopter was used by the then Soviet Army in the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. It is well suited for operating in that environment. Since that time, the Afghan military has used the Mi-17 and become familiar with the aircraft's operation.
Vergez said the high-altitude-capable, troop and supply-carrying Mi-17 is considered a national asset by the Afghans.
"It is an extension of the sovereign Afghan government beyond Kabul," Vergez noted. "For example, during a series of recent floods in the mountains, the Afghan government launched two of its recently acquired Mi-17's to help the people."
Vergez said that over a five day period, using the Mi-17, the Afghans were able to rescue over 1,000 people from the floods.
"That builds good will," he said. "Afghanistan is tribal, so when the central government comes in with that kind of power, it really goes a long way."
Vergez said delivery of the Mi-17s, which fly at altitude up to 19,860 feet, mean the Afghan military will gain further independence and that means fewer U.S. military will need to be in Afghanistan.
"There is no air support for Afghanistan other than the Americans as we establish this capability for Afghanistan," Vergez said. "With every one of these deliveries we are able to bring Americans home."
The delivery is pursuant to a contract signed in 2010. The latter provides for the delivery of 6 Mi-171Sh military transports to Peru. The first shipment of three helicopters has already been produced by UUAP and is now prepared for delivery to the customer.
The helicopters will be delivered to Peru by air by an Antonov An-124. The second batch of Mi-171Sh helicopters is scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2011. The contract also provides for the delivery of equipment and flight and engineering staff training for the customer.
The multi-role Mi-171Sh helicopters delivered under the contract are equipped with new systems raising their efficiency in combat, and also main systems and crew protection, radioelectronic and instrument equipment that allows flights in difficult weather during night and day. The Ministry of Defense of Peru is planning to use Mi-171Sh helicopters for a wide scope of tasks, including fighting drug trafficking.
Today the Mi-171Sh is one of the most popular medium military transport helicopters in the world. Experts note the versatility of the rotorcraft and its high performance. The Mi-171Sh has proven itself in a number of local conflicts, anti-terror and law enforcement operations, anti-drug trafficking and search and rescue missions. The helicopters remain very capable at high altitude in mountainous terrain and in hot climates.
Deliveries of the Mi-171Sh manufactured by UUAP to customers from other countries started after a series of tests was completed in 2002. Over 120 Mi-171Sh were delivered under FSUE Rosoboronexport to countries in the Middle East, South-East Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe.
It is noteworthy that the Mi-171Sh was acquired by NATO countries alongside traditional partners of Russia in military cooperation. For example, 26 helicopters were delivered to the Czech Republic and Croatia in the period 2005-2008.
Peru has been operating rotorcraft made by UUAP for more than 10 years. In particular, civil operators in the country have several Mi-171 helicopters. They highly esteem rotorcraft of Russian make, noting their performance, reliability, ease of operation and maintenance, and capability to fly in difficult conditions.
The number of countries operating Mi-171 and Mi-171Sh manufactured by UUAP is constantly growing. These rotorcraft are successfully operated in Peru and other countries of the region.
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Albuquerque NM (SPX) May 16, 2011
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