Russia: Taliban seized more than 100 military helicopters | Afghanistan

The Taliban He has captured more than 100 Russian-made helicopters in various states of operation, the chief Russian state arms exporter said, but he will largely be unable to use them with little access to maintenance crews and spare parts.

Such as The Taliban invaded the Afghan army It took control of large stores of weapons and vehicles, and also captured at least 100 Mi-17 Hip helicopters, a Russian-made transport aircraft that the US had purchased for the Afghan armed forces because it was relatively cheaper and easier to fly than the US-made UH- 60 Black Hawks.

“The helicopter fleet there is large – more than 100 Mi-17 helicopters of various types,” Alexander Mikheev, head of the official Russian company Rosoboronexporter, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. “Of course, this fleet needs repair, maintenance and the supply of spare parts.” He said that a large part of the fleet could already be stopped.

Mikheev’s estimate of the number of Russian-made helicopters in Afghanistan is much higher than the reported inventory. July Report of the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) He said the Afghan army has 56 Mi-17 helicopters, of which only 32 are usable in the country. Mi-17 is the export version of the Russian Mi-8 helicopter, which is manufactured at two plants in Kazan and Ulan-Ude in Russia.

It is unclear how many of these helicopters are now in flight, as the US withdrawal from its armed forces and the Taliban offensive have affected the readiness of the Afghan Air Force. Videos of Taliban fighters flying in a Mi-17 surfaced earlier this month. But there are no indications so far that the Taliban are deploying the helicopters in combat operations.

An Afghan Air Force Mi-17 helicopter pilot prepares to leave Kabul International Airport in November 2014
An Afghan Air Force Mi-17 helicopter pilot prepares to leave Kabul International Airport in November 2014. Photo: US Air Force/Reuters

The United States has switched to providing Black Hawk aircraft to Afghanistan In recent years, partly due to restrictions on working with Russian manufacturers and exporters of Mi-17 weapons. But far fewer Afghan crews have been trained in aircraft maintenance. According to Sigar, the Black Hawk’s fleet readiness was halved to just 39% in the April-June period as aircraft maintenance contractors were pulled out.

The Mi-17 fleet has for years been the backbone of the Afghan Air Force, regularly working to transport troops, deliver ammunition and evacuate casualties. The United States began purchasing Mi-17 helicopters in 2005, purchasing at least 50 helicopters from the Russian exporting country before plans to buy an additional 30 helicopters faced opposition in Congress in 2013.

The Pentagon had lobbied for the deal to go through. “They’ve used it for years,” then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified at home in April 2013, Washington Post mentioned. Easy maintenance, undeveloped. We can get it very quickly. This is what they want.”

While the Afghans were increasingly able to take on the relatively simple maintenance of aircraft, obtaining spare parts amid quiet relations between Moscow and Washington became a problem.

“As soon as the maintenance crew stops working, the equipment by Russian standards becomes unable to fly,” said Mikheev.

The Taliban also approached Kabul, Dozens of Afghan pilots fled their military planes across the border to Uzbekistan. A statement issued by the Uzbek government said that 46 Afghan planes, including 24 helicopters, were forced to land in the Central Asian country. Analysis of satellite imagery of the aircraft shows that 19 appear to be Mi-17s and nine are Black Hawks.

Russia announced on Wednesday that it will begin evacuating up to 500 of its citizens from Afghanistan on four transport planes. The country’s foreign ministry has said it will not close its embassy in the country and has held security consultations with Taliban officials since the fall of Kabul last week.

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