The Czech Republic will deploy three Mi-171 transport helicopters to Afghanistan for the first time in January 2010.

The aircraft will operate from a base at Sarana and support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), an international military force in Afghanistan.

The Czech Army has already deployed the first group of soldiers to build a mobile hangar and provide logistics while another group will leave for Sarana shortly.

The helicopters will operate in the region for two years and pilots will rotate in four-month intervals.

Mi-171 is an export version of the Mi-8 Hip helicopter, a large transport helicopter that can transport up to 37 troops with equipment.

The helicopters will undergo missions including search-and-rescue operations, firefighting, patrolling, emergency medical care, and loading and unloading cargo in flight.