Collaboration in Civic Spheres

U.S. to spend $375 million for more Russian copters in Afghanistan

by June 6th, 2011

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Defense has announced a $375 million contract with a Russian state export firm to purchase 21 new Russian-made Mi-17 military transport helicopters for the Afghan air force, plus spare parts and engineering services. A non-competitive bidding process was used, and upheld by U.S. regulators over protests from a U.S. manufacturer.

BACKGROUND: A recent article in Army.mil notes that 52 Russian Mi-17 helicopters are already in operation in Afghanistan, maintained by U.S.-based Northrup Grumman, and 14 of 22 recently-purchased Mi-17s for Iraq have been delivered. They can fly at high altitudes and are used for carrying troops and supplies. As the draw-down of U.S. troops approaches, the U.S. military is working to ensure the Afghan national forces can assume control of the war against the Taliban-led opposition, including air operations which are considered crucial in the effort partly because of the country’s lack of functional roads and highways. Last November, the U.S. Government Accountability office denied a formal protest by the U.S.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to the non-competitive contract bid specifications for the new Russian-made Mi17s, citing the particular suitability of those helicopters to the rough Afghan terrain and the long-standing familiarity of Afghan military pilots with the craft. A joint Russian-U.S. Mi-17 maintenance center will located in Afghanistan, Xinhua News reports.

KEY LINK: U.S. Department of Defense Contract Award Announcements, June 1, 2011. (Additional information from e-mail interview with a Department of Defense spokesperson.)

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced a $375 million contract with the Russian state-authorized distributor Rosboronexport for 21 new Russian-made Mi-17V5 military transport helicopters, spare parts and engineering services. The helicopters will be equipped with 23mm guns, gun and rocket pods, outriggers, and Weapons Control Systems.
  • The helicopters cost $344 million; spare and repair parts plus tools and equipment will cost $28.2 million. Engineering services, primarily to convert the helicopter cockpits to accommodate Western radios and flight instruments, will cost $2.4 million.
  • A DoD spokesperson said the contract also provides for work by the manufacturer to ensure safe operations of all the agency’s Mi aircraft.
  • The new helicopters will be built in Russia and completed by late March, 2016. Only one bid was solicited, and one received. The contracting agency is the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

Mi-17 helicopter being used to rescue Afghan villagers from a flood/U.S. Department of Defense

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