The U.S. military would buy Russian Mi-17 helicopters

The U.S. military plans to sign an exclusive contract with Russian state arms exporter company "Rosoboronexport" to supply helicopters to the Afghan military.
In a statement on January 13 Contract Center Army Aviation and Missile Command, the U.S. announced that it will provide "Rosoboronexport", as the sole contractor contract for the purchase of Mi-17 helicopters.

The armed forces did not provide any technical specifications, no information about the cost and size of the contract, but a person familiar with the details confirmed that it is about 21 Mi-17, the contract also includes the supply of spare parts, tool sets, and testing. The estimated purchase is the latest attempt to provide equipment to Afghan war, as well as Iraq and Pakistan, providing them with reliable and affordable equipment from the factories of its former enemy in the Cold War.

Russian helicopters Mi-17, are renowned for their versatility and ease of maintenance, but earlier attempts to procure them were complicated by U.S. sanctions against "Rosoboronexport", imposed in connection with its links with Iran. These sanctions were lifted last year under pressure from the White House trying to improve relations with the Kremlin.

After the June meeting of Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev both sides announced that they will work together to ensure delivery of Russian-made helicopters and spare parts for the Afghan military.

Funded by the U.S. deal with Russian helicopters made some people raised an eyebrow. U.S. lawmakers said that the Pentagon should try to buy more American-made aircraft itself. And companies that are expected to apply for participation in the competition for the new contract were shocked the government’s decision to sign an exclusive contract with the "Rosoboronexport".

Last year, Arinc Engineering Services LLC, a company based in Maryland, opposed the decision to purchase a fleet of 21 helicopters Mi-17 at the "Rosoboronexport". Main Accounting Office dismissed the protest U.S. Arinc. Procurement Manual was then transferred to the ground forces, which are responsible for the purchase of "non-standard" equipment.

The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years for the purchase of Mi-17 helicopters for its allies. Before the sanctions with "Rosoboronexport" were removed, private firms bought civilian versions of these helicopters and converted them for military use, said people familiar with the process.

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