The Associated Press is reporting that the United States Pentagon just spent roughly $1 billion on dozens of Russian Mi-17 rotorcrafts. Previously it had been reported that there was a great amount of difficulty in securing a deal and there was some speculation that it might not happen.
The helicopters were purchased for the Afghan military, and it was claimed that the decision was made with long-term goals in mind. There are plans to withdraw U.S troops from the region at some point, though not in the immediate future. The ability to reduce the role American forces are playing in Afghanistan will hinge on the ability for the local military forces to have the training and equipment they need to combat terrorist forces in the region. Afghan forces require helicopters that would be able to transfer supplies and troops with little or no difficulty.
Defense officials claim that because of Afghanistan’s unique climate and landscape, the Russian rotorcrafts are best suited to the task. The Chinook, an American helicopter, has long been proven to be of great international quality. It’s existence makes it hard to understand the need to go abroad for military helicopters.
Texas Senator John Cornyn was especially vocal about his opposition to the deal. “Why are we buying Russian helicopters when there are American manufacturers that can meet that very same requirement?” Much of the concern with the decision to go to Russia is the corrupt nature of the Russian defense industry. The refusal of the Department of Defense to be more transparent about the maneuver to buy these helicopters made some think that they were purposefully misleading Congress about the deal. The Department of Defense denied it, and former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had cited a study about the superior nature of Russian Mi-17 rotorcrafts. Carter stepped down a week ago.
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