Russia Delivers Last of U.S.-bought Helicopters to Afghan Military


The chill of the Cold War may be in the air in Europe but business relations between the U.S. Department of Defense and Russian defense industry have continued.

The last of 63 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters that the Pentagon ordered for Afghanistan's military were delivered in October, according to multiple reports.

Additionally, the Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation said it would assist with future helicopter deliveries to the Afghan National Army and help maintain the aircraft already in service.

The helicopter purchases were criticized by U.S. lawmakers when the Pentagon inked the contracts in 2011 because Russia has been a supporter of Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad. Relations between the U.S. and Russia were more recently lowered by Russia's orchestrated break-away and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Human Rights First, a U.S. watchdog group, told the Wall Street Journal in July 2013 that the Pentagon was paying far too much for the Mi-17. The group said Russia was selling them for between $13 million and $14 million each in 2010. The Defense Department reportedly paid $18 million per aircraft.

The Defense Department found that the Mi-17 performed well in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, according to Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-owned company that handles the country's military imports and exports.

In September, the U.S. Air Force took delivery of 20 A-29 Super Tacano light attack planes for the Afghan military. The fixed-wing planes are now at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, where Afghan pilots and maintainers will be trained on them.

Once the training is over, the planes, pilots and ground crews will head back to Afghanistan. The planes, which cost $427 million, are intended to replace the Afghan's Mi-35 light attack helicopter, which the Air Force said it will reach the end of its service life in early 2016.

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