Afghanistan continues flying Mi-17 helicopter

The Afghan Air Force (AAF) continues using Mil Mi-17V-5 (NATO reporting name: Hip-H) utility rotorcraft during a wide range of missions, despite the fact that Sikorsky UH-60A+ Black Hawk rotorcraft, which are intended for their replacement, have already been fielded, says the United States of America’s Department of Defense’s (DoD) annual report ‘Enhancing Stability and Security in Afghanistan’.

Afghanistan continues flying Mi 17 helicopter A Mi-17 from the Afghan Air Force (Picture source: US Army)

"The Mi-17 helicopter conducts day and night personnel transport, MEDEVAC [medical evacuation], resupply, close-combat attack, aerial escort, and air assault missions. The AAF is capable of deploying and operating Mi-17s throughout the country <…> AAF maintainers have a proven ability to perform the majority of Mi-17 maintenance," says the report.

The U.S. DoD notes that the AAF has already begun operating UN-60A+ rotorcraft. "UH-60s have been fully fielded to the AAF and, as pilot proficiency increases, they will increasingly and fully displace the Mi-17 fleet," says the report.

According to the document, AAF technicians conduct 85% of technical operations required for the overhauls of the Mi-17s (excluding heavy repairs). The Hips also feature the best serviceability level in the Afghan military’s rotary-wing inventory.

The report says the AAF operates 45 Mi-17 utility helicopters, of which 23 are fully ready. As of late December 2019, 11 helicopters required overhaul due to the end of their usable life, four were sent to Bulgaria for overhaul, and seven more were being repaired or were waiting for overhaul. AAF also trained 48 crews for its Mi-17s.

According to the report, the Afghan military will increasingly replace the Mi-17s with the UH-60A+ rotorcraft, as pilot proficiency increases. The U.S. DoD has also approved a plan, in accordance with which Afghanistan’s Special Mission Wing (SMW) will have replaced its Mi-17S with US-made CH-47 Chinook heavy utility helicopters by 2023.

In 2011, Russia’s JSC Rosoboronexport (a subsidiary of state corporation Rostec) and the US military signed a contract for delivery of 63 Mi-17V-5 helicopters to the Afghan army. The helicopters had been delivered by October 2014.

The US DoD is planning to supply the AAF with 53 UH-60A+ helicopters. Afghanistan now operates 10 upgraded Black Hawks, seven more platforms of the type are being modernized for the SMW.

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