WASHINGTON --- The U.S. Army’s Black Hawk helicopters are less capable for some missions conducted by Afghanistan’s Air Force than the Russian-made ones they’re replacing, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general.
It’s a setback, six years after lawmakers started pushing for the U.S. to stop buying the Mi-17 sold by Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned weapons exporter, in light of President Vladimir Putin’s interventions abroad. The Afghan military, which is working to develop its Air Force’s capabilities, has been flying the Russian-made chopper since the 1980s.
The transition to Black Hawks made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft unit “presents several challenges that have yet to be fully addressed,” Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote in his latest quarterly assessment of U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan, posted in May, the same month the first Black Hawk was flown in an Afghanistan operation by the nascent air force.
“Black Hawks do not have the lift capability” of the Russian aircraft, Fine wrote. The helicopters also “are unable to accommodate some of the larger cargo items the Mi-17 can carry, and in general it takes almost two Black Hawks to carry the load of a single Mi-17,” Fine said. “Unlike the Mi-17, Black Hawks cannot fly at high elevations and, as such, cannot operate in remote regions of Afghanistan where Mi-17s operate.” (end of excerpt)
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