Canada Joins Afghans, Operating the Mi-17

Canada’s Air Force pilots recently began operating Mi-17V5 helicopters in Afghanistan, giving them a platform in common with the Afghan air force, Col. Christian Drouin, former commander of the Canadian’s Afghanistan Air Wing, tells the Daily Report. Canadian crews operate these helicopters, which they have dubbed CH-178s, but contractors own them. They augment Canada’s CH-47 Chinooks and contract fleet to meet airlift needs. “We can’t do everything with the six Chinooks that we have,” said Drouin during an interview in Washington D.C. Canada has contributed to NATO’s Afghan air training mission for years, but operating the Mi-17 may open new doors. “We could have pilots contribute on the Mi-17,” said Drouin. He continued, “We have a few of those guys floating around that are qualified on an Mi-type machine. . . . That’s what they have in Kandahar. It’s in the realm of the possible.” Canada’s Air Force’s future role in theater is still in flux as Canada begins transitioning from combat to the Afghan training role this summer. With an upcoming deployment cap of 950 personnel, Canadian Forces must balance any contributions to air training with ground commitments to the Afghan National Army, explained Drouin.