The majority of helicopters was damaged due to hard landing and failed lift-off in the conditions of low mountainous pressure and low temperatures. This is the reason why helicopters “Black Hawk” – proved to be low effective there, while they are a backbone of the American light transport helicopter fleet and used for cargo carriage, rescue operations, reconnaissance and special operations. Due to the problems with “the hawks” the Americans had to use more intensively heavy transport helicopters “Chinook”. These old-timers of the US Air Force that are in service for more than 40 years, have no replacement until now.
All these factors make the Pentagon and NATO to look for a remedy. And at that moment they pay attention to Russian Mi-8 and Mi-26 that have been successfully tested in the uplands by the Americans themselves. As the matter of fact, in due time the CIA purchased several military-transport Mi-8’s from former socialist countries and nowadays uses them for special operations. In so doing, it became clear that exactly these helicopters Mi-8 are unique for the Afghanistan mountainous environment. And super heavy helicopters Mi-26 purchased by the Pentagon successfully carry damaged American choppers.
As a result, the NATO’s Military Committee came to an extraordinary solution to lease 20 helicopters Mi-17 (export version of Mi-8) and several helicopters Mi-26 with crews from Russian civil air companies for their further use in Afghanistan. All countries of the alliance have already approved this idea. Note that such decisions are made in NATO unanimously.
The leased Russian “choppers” are expected to be used for logistic support of the alliance troops in Afghanistan. We are not talking the combat employment of our helicopters because Russia is not involved in combat operations in Afghanistan. Our helicopters are expected to be stationed on the US Base in Kandahar.
A value of the matter is 100,000 US Dollar a week per each Mi-17. An annual lease payment for 20 “choppers” Mi-17 totals 100 million US Dollars less money allowance of the crews. In spite of expected evident overexpenditure of NATO appropriations for combat activities in Afghanistan, the alliance countries are likely to agree with the terms and conditions of our air companies. After all, in Afghanistan they often lose their expensive aircraft together with crews while according to the NATO’s Military Committee, implementation of the idea to lease Russian choppers would decrease casualties of the coalition troops.
Will Russian “choppers” fly in the sky of Afghanistan or not? Answer is pending. Because the decision is made not only by NATO but also by Russian air companies. Moreover, will Russian “chopper” crews agree to become targets for Taliban’s surface-to-air missiles?
However, even if the answer of Russian air companies to the NATO’s proposal is positive, it will hardly radically improve the position of the alliance troops in Afghanistan.