Iraq seeks Mi-17 chopper logistics support

Aug. 10, 2010 at 6:12 AM
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BAGHDAD, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Iraq is seeking logistics support for its Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters and for U.S.-origin rotary-wing aircraft not in the U.S. Department of Defense's inventory.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the U.S. Congress of the possible foreign military sale worth around $152 million for the two logistics and support contracts that would be spread over two years.

The DSCA said the sale would "contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country."

The proposed sale "directly supports the Iraq government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States."

This proposed sale would help build a strong national military and police force structure in Iraq, the DSCA said. "The support and services will enable Iraq to equip new forces to assume the missions currently accomplished by U.S. and coalition forces and to sustain itself in its efforts to bring stability to Iraq," an agency release said.

The Iraqi air force has operated Mi-17 aircraft for many years. In March 2009 Aeronautical Radio Inc. of Annapolis, Md., was awarded an $80.6 million fixed-price contract to procure and deliver of 22 Mi-17CT helicopters.

Prior to that, Iraq bought 10 Mi-17 helicopters in March 2006 from Russia, the first acquisition of aircraft by the air force without coalition involvement.

The Mi-17 is the export version of the twin-engine Mi-8 helicopter, roughly equivalent to the Huey UH-1, but still in production since the 1970s thanks to dozens of upgrades.

Maximum speed is 156 mph and a maximum range of just under 60 miles. Ceiling height is 19,700 feet.

The Mi-8 is about twice the size and weight of the UH-1 but only hauls about half as much more cargo It has a larger interior and can carry 24 troops, versus a dozen in the UH-1. The UH-1 was replaced by the UH-60 in the 1980s.

The Mi-8 also has had a price tag of about half that of a UH-60. Iraq is said to favor Russian equipment because the Soviet Union supplied many of the former Iraqi regime's military hardware during the country's war with Iran in the 1980s.

Many of Iraq's Mi-17s came from Poland, which also is supplying some maintenance services. The Iraqi air force also has 16 refurbished UH-1 Hueys, and five similar Bell 206 Jet Rangers.

Last month an Iraqi Mi-17 crashed in a sandstorm south west of Baghdad, killing all five crew. No reason was given for the crash but the incident occurred in an area where recently rockets launched by militants had killed at least seven people.

Earlier this month Sikorsky, a division of United Technologies Corp., and which manufactures the Black Hawk helicopter, lodged a formal protest over the U.S. Navy's plans to buy 21 Mi17s.

Sikorsky told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that U.S. manufacturers weren't allowed to bid for the contract and that the Navy should issue a new request-for-bids.

Russian state-owned Kazan Helicopters JSC is the only maker of the Mi17.

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