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8 Jul, 2010 11:56

NATO considers Russian choppers for Afghanistan

NATO is looking at buying 21 Russian Mi-17 helicopters for Afghanistan. If the deal goes ahead, it would be the first time Russia and the United States have together equipped a third country.

The deal, apart from the choppers themselves, will include fuel and armor for them, as well as training for the pilots.

In addition, Russia has said it will send a number of complimentary helicopters.

The overall cost of the deal has not been disclosed, but with the export price of one helicopter ranging from $12-15 million, it is likely that Russia has taken into account both the economic and political value of the deal and set a non-commercial price.

Mi-17 helicopters are versatile transport aircrafts made especially for use in mountainous area. Also, many Afghan pilots were trained to fly them during the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Igor Khokhlov, from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, explained that it is one of the reasons why the Mi-17 helicopters were chosen over American ones.

Those helicopters have proven very effective in mountainous terrain and armies all over the world are using those helicopters,” Khokhlov said. “Most of the world’s armies, especially those who have to fight on mountainous terrain, terrain [that is] very similar to the Afghan one, use those helicopters.”

Details of the deal will be discussed at a Russia-NATO summit in a week.