Moscow, Russia – Details of a meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, Mohammad Hanif Atmar have come to light early this week that a Russian-state run company ‘VNH Helitechco,’ or ‘Russian Helicopters’ will be taking over the deliveries of new aircraft as well as maintenance and repair of the aging fleet of Russian made Mi-17 ‘Hip’ transport helicopters along with the Mi-24 ‘Hind’ helicopter gunships that Afghanistan received from India in February 2016. Maintenance of the aged Russian attack helicopter fleet at one time fell on the United States who were purchasing smaller helicopters and repair parts from Russia up to 2015, until Russia entered the Ukraine and the U.S. pushed sanctions on Russia in response and ceased any dealings with Russia and its companies in regards to Afghanistan.
The company “Russian Helicopters” is a subsidiary of the Russian Technologies State Corporation, or ROSTEC. According to ROSTEC’s website, the corporation is a group of “700 organizations that are currently part of 14 holding companies, nine of which operate in the military-industrial complex, and five in civilian sectors.” ROSTEC is also governed by a supervisory group, executive board, and a general director, all appointed by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. ROSTEC also holds several partnerships with large western corporations that have established military contracts within the United States, such as Thales Information Systems from France, Daimler from Germany, and Boeing from the United States. The Ural Boeing Manufacturing joint venture has 15 years of trade behind it, with raw titanium coming from Russia and then forged into lightweight aircraft parts for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Boeing’s Portland Oregon plant on the West Coast of the United States.
The Afghan military badly needs new attack and transport helicopters, yet due to U.S. sanctions have been left looking for another pathway for maintain the aging Russian helicopter fleet. Russians by way of India were all too happy to step into that role for Afghanistan. The United States in response to Afghanistan’s need offered to supply them with McDonnell Douglas MD 530. A light fast attack helicopter that can be outfitted with various weapon systems and rockets pods. The Afghan Ministry of Defense rejected these due to many of the senior leadership and their pilots, who have trained on the Mi-17 and Mi-24 platforms exclusively, preferring the “bigger, sturdier Russian machines.”
Russian Helicopters seemed all but confident that they will in fact win the contract with the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense as they released a press statement on their website earlier this week alluding to having this one “in the bag.” “Russian Helicopters [part of the Rostec state corporation] is holding talks with the Afghan Defense Ministry. On this stage, different options for cooperation, concerning repair and maintenance of Russian military equipment, which is currently exploited in Afghanistan, are considered.” Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani also stated that his hope after this final round of talks in Moscow is that “Moscow would open a servicing center for helicopters in Afghanistan as soon as possible.” Russia seems to be finding its way back into Afghanistan, only this time instead of tanks, bullets, and bombs. They are bringing money, parts, and global financial partnerships, and the United States is left holding “Little Birds” and U.S. military casualties in what is slowly becoming our generation’s Forgotten War.
Feature image courtesy of Reuters