The political fuss in the United States over the Mil Mi-17V-5 helicopters which the Pentagon plans to buy in Russia for the Afghan armed forces is a vivid example of lobbying for the national industry's interests, said Anatoly Isaikin, the general director of the state arms trader Rosoboronexport.
"Objectively speaking, the deal has no viable alternatives according the cost-effectiveness criteria," Isaikin said in an interview published by the Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye military magazine on Friday.
"The whole fuss surrounding this story is a vivid example of lobbying for the national industry's interests," he said.
"Russian helicopters are much cheaper than their rivals. But even more important, they have demonstrated excellent performance and reliability in the rigorous climatic conditions typical of Afghanistan," Isaikin said.
"Furthermore, it is a lot easier to train Afghan crews and to maintain these helicopters. One can find here several factors which prompted the U.S. Department of Defense to make a pragmatic and carefully weighed decision," he said.
This deal also has symbolic meaning, Isaikin continued.
"It shows that our two countries can work on common tasks together, brushing aside prejudices and empty rhetoric. I don't think we have too many projects of such a scope to boast about. Concerning claims that the price has been raised, these are groundless," he said.
Reports said earlier that the Senate Appropriations Committee voted not to provide the funding that the Pentagon needs to buy Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan armed forces.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, wants to receive $345 million in additional funding to buy 15 helicopters.
The first contract for the delivery of 21 Mi-17V5 helicopters for the Afghan armed forces was concluded between Rosoboronexport and the U.S. Department of Defense in May 2011. The deal was estimated to be about $900 million, including $350 million to be paid for the helicopters and the rest for spare parts, training of the crews and maintenance services.
The contract was fulfilled in June 2012 and another contract for the delivery of 12 helicopters was signed a month later. The new contract was worth $171.4 million, according to American sources.
It emerged in mid-June that Rosoboronexport and the U.S. Department of Defense signed a new contract for the delivery of 30 Mi-17 helicopters for Afghanistan worth $554 million.
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