Mil Mi-17V-5 military-transport helicopters, which Russian state-run arms trader Rosoboronexport has been delivering to Afghanistan's security forces under contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, are able to very effectively perform their missions in Afghan conditions, Rosoboronexport general director Anatoly Isaikin told Interfax-AVN.
"As far as the effectiveness-price criterion is concerned, the Mi-17 has no alternatives in the current situation. First, Russian helicopters cost much less than similar [foreign] helicopters. Second, its qualities make the Mi-17 ideally suited for work in the most complicated conditions of Afghanistan. And, third, it is far easier to train Afghan crews to operate Mi-17 helicopters. It is also easier to maintain them, etc," he said.
These Russian helicopters are capable of tackling a wide variety of tasks, he said.
"From a tactical standpoint, there are scores of such tasks, but there is only one strategic task - it is the task of helping the Afghan people live in security. In short, Russia's Mi 17-type military-transport helicopters are able to perform combat and humanitarian missions both during the day and at night in good and bad weather using all of the available assault means, should such a need arise. On the whole, these state-of-the-art helicopters can rightfully be called one of the symbols of the Russian helicopter industry. Many specialists from different countries have recognized that these helicopters are the best in their class and have been successfully operated by more than 70 countries in different climate zones," Isaikin said.
It is not a secret that the Mi-17 helicopter successfully combines the latest technologies developed by Russian designers and the vast experience of their predecessors' use during wars, local conflicts and peacekeeping missions, he said.
"The new Mi-17 modifications have inherited their unique survivability from their predecessors, which took part in almost all conflicts of the second half of the 20th century. Soviet helicopters did very well in Afghanistan, where their reliability and easy maintenance became legendary," Isaikin said.
When asked why the Pentagon chose to buy Russian Mi-17 helicopters instead of U.S. Blackhawk helicopters, Isaikin said that "as American military officials have already explained, Mi-17 helicopters cost less and are easier to maintain than similar American helicopters."
"I would like to quote one of the Pentagon representative's remarks to the media that "there will be an urgent need in the short-term prospect to buy Mi-17 helicopters for Afghanistan's fledging air force because this helicopter is optimally suited to tackle the tasks facing this unit," Isaikin said.
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