US likely to cancel Mi-17 contract with Russia over Syrian protests


MI-17 helicopters

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is likely to cancel a recently announced Mi-17 utility helicopters supply contract with Russia, after US Congress voted against working with the Russian state-arms exporter Rosoboronexport, following the delivery of arms to Syria.

According to a statement by the House of Representatives, the bill, introduced by Democrat congressman Jim Moran, was passed by a 407-5 vote and was attached to the 2013-2014 US military budget.

Moran said that the US Government's work with a company that is arming the oppressive Syrian regime is 'beyond unacceptable'.

''The United States does not condone the massacre of innocent men, women and children," Moran said. "Furthering contracts with Rosoboronexport contradicts our nation's commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy."

The landslide vote came shortly after Russia and China vetoed a US-backed UN Security Council resolution on Syria, marking the third time in nine months that the two countries have exercised their powers as permanent members to block sanctions on the Middle-Eastern country.

"Furthering contracts with Rosoboronexport contradicts our nation's commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy."

Rosoboronexport refused to comment on the issue, but the country's foreign ministry condemned the move by saying it was an 'attempt at revenge for Russia's position on Syria'.

US Army Contracting Command awarded a $171m option contract to Rosoboronexport for deliveries of additional ten Mi-17 military transport helicopters to the Afghan National Army (ANA) on 18 July.

Rosoboronexport had secured a $367m order in May 2011 for initial deliveries of 21 Mi-17V5s to ANA, which was followed by a second $46m contract seeking supply of two Mi-17s and spare parts the following month.

All helicopters under the first contract have been delivered to ANA, according to Russia's Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST).

The Mi-17 is an export version of the Mi-8 Hip helicopter, and is intended to improve the Afghan national security forces' capabilities for urban warfare and special units operations against Taliban insurgents.


Image: Two Afghan National Air Corps' MI-17 helicopters take off during a formation practice. Photo: courtesy of tech sgt Cecilio M Ricardo Jr.