Taliban have captured additional than 100 armed service helicopters, Russia states | Afghanistan

The Taliban have captured additional than 100 Russian-manufactured helicopters in several states of operability, the head of a Russian state arms exporter has mentioned, but will be mainly unable to use them with little obtain to routine maintenance crews and spare parts.

As the Taliban overran the Afghan military and took control of substantial shops of arms and automobiles, it also captured at least 100 Mi-17 Hip helicopters, a Russian-built transport aircraft procured by the US for the Afghan armed forces since it was comparatively much less expensive and simpler to fly than US-created UH-60 Black Hawks.

“The helicopter fleet there is massive – more than 100 Mi-17 helicopters of a variety of styles,” reported Alexander Mikheev, the head of the Russian condition exporter Rosoboronexporter, in accordance to the Interfax information agency. “Of system, this fleet calls for restore, routine maintenance and spare pieces offer.” A substantial portion of the fleet could now be grounded, he claimed.

Mikheev’s estimate for the quantity of Russian-made helicopters in Afghanistan is significantly greater than the noted inventory. A July report from the US unique inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (Sigar) mentioned that the Afghan military services had 56 Mi-17 helicopters, of which just 32 had been usable and in the state. The Mi-17 is the export edition of Russia’s Mi-8 helicopter, which is produced at two crops in Kazan and Ulan-Ude in Russia.

How quite a few of people helicopters are now in traveling condition is unclear, as the US drawdown of its armed forces and the Taliban onslaught have taken their toll on the Afghan air force’s readiness. Movies had surfaced of Taliban fighters traveling in an Mi-17 previously this thirty day period. But there are no indications but that the Taliban are deploying the helicopters in combat operations.

An Afghan air pressure Mi-17 helicopter pilot prepares to depart Kabul Intercontinental airport in November 2014. Photograph: Us Air Pressure/Reuters

The US had shifted to delivering Black Hawks to Afghanistan in modern many years, in aspect because of restrictions on operating with Russian weapons producers and exporters of the Mi-17. But far less Afghan crews had been educated to maintain the plane. In accordance to Sigar, the readiness of the Black Hawk fleet fell by 50 percent to just 39% in the time period from April to June as aircraft servicing contractors were pulled out.

For decades the fleet of Mi-17s manufactured up the backbone of the Afghan air pressure, doing work consistently to transport troops, supply ammunition and evacuate casualties. The US began procuring Mi-17 helicopters in 2005, acquiring at least 50 from the Russian condition exporter prior to designs to buy an addition 30 helicopters ran into opposition in Congress in 2013.

The Pentagon had pressed for the offer to go as a result of. “They’ve been applying it for several years,” the then-protection secretary, Chuck Hagel, mentioned in house testimony in April 2013, the Washington Post claimed. “Easy maintenance, unsophisticated. We can get it fairly immediately. Which is the just one they want.”

Even though Afghans had progressively been able to just take up upkeep of the comparatively easy aircraft, acquiring spare parts amid cool relations amongst Moscow and Washington experienced turn into a challenge.

“As before long as the servicing staff cease performing, the gear according to Russian criteria becomes non-traveling,” Mikheev mentioned.

As the Taliban shut in on Kabul, dozens of Afghan pilots fled with their armed service aircraft across the border into Uzbekistan. A assertion by the Uzbekistan government reported that 46 Afghan plane, like 24 helicopters, had been forced to land in the central Asian place. Investigation of satellite photos of the aircraft demonstrates that 19 show up to be Mi-17s and nine are Black Hawks.

Russia on Wednesday introduced that it would begin evacuating as many as 500 of its citizens from Afghanistan on 4 transport planes. The country’s international ministry has reported it will not shut its embassy in the place and has held safety consultations with Taliban officials because the drop of Kabul last week.

Elva Zachman

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