Afghan Helicopter Fleet Grows

Four newly equipped Mi-17 helicopters have arrived at Kabul Airport, Afghanistan, bringing the Afghan Ministry of Defense’s fleet size to 31. Overall the Mi-17 fleet is expected to grow to 56 tails by 2013 before the Afghans begin to recapitalize the oldest of them with a more western-based platform in 2014. A single AN-124 transport flew the four helicopters in on Monday. These Mi-17s were modified to Afghan specifications in Dubai, UAE. They are the latest V5 variant, featuring an upgraded flight deck, and enhanced provision for external weapons carriage. The Afghans now have six V5 aircraft and 25 older variants. The Mi-17 is currently the primary battlefield air mobility platform in Afghan service. Afghan defense forces are building up their aircraft inventories and capability with the assistance of US and NATO advisors. (Kabul report by MC1 Elizabeth Burke.)