Skip to comments.U.S.-Russia copter deal faces scrutiny
Posted on 12/08/2013 9:21:54 AM PST by DJ Taylor
WASHINGTON The deal looked sketchy from the start.
To outfit Afghanistans security forces with new helicopters, the Pentagon bypassed U.S. companies and turned instead to Moscow for dozens of Russian Mi-17 rotorcraft at a cost of more than $1 billion.
Senior Pentagon officials assured skeptical members of Congress that the Department of Defense had made the right call. They repeatedly cited a top-secret 2010 study they said named the Mi-17 as the superior choice.
Turns out the study told a very different story, according to unclassified excerpts obtained by The Associated Press.
(Excerpt) Read more at hawaiitribune-herald.com ...
Do we smell an “Obamunism” at work here ???
Yes indeed we do. It’s yet another wealth transfer (YAWT). From US taxpayers (now and in the future), only this time to Russia. Comes with being flexible.
“Do we smell an Obamunism at work here ???”
No, I think it has more to do with military practicality versus Congressional lobbying and campaign contributions.
After logging quite a few hours in the back end of Russian Mi-17 Hip helicopters, several things about the aircraft and how the Russians built them became apparent. The Mi-17 is similar in size and has similar performance capabilities as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter but comparing the two is like comparing a Yugo with a Ferrari. Both helicopters will get you from point A to point B, but thats about where the similarity ends.
When an American boards an Mi-17, he knows right away hes on an alien aircraft; nothing is familiar. The interior is painted a sickly blue; theres no soundproofing padding, leaking hydraulic fluid smells strange, the engines loud and sounds like a washing machine with an unbalanced load and emits a foul smelling exhaust from half-burned fuel that finds its way into the troop compartment through the rear gunners window. But the most disconcerting thing about the Mi-17 is that the five rotor blades turn in a clockwise direction and the fuselage wobbles under the rotor blades in a counter clockwise direction. To fly in a forward motion while at the same time moving in a counter clockwise direction takes some getting used to.
Theres nothing on the Mi-17 thats automatic or computer controlled. If the pilot wants the helicopter to do something, a lever must be pulled, a switch flipped or a button pushed. It doesnt appear possible for the pilot to fly the aircraft alone in anything but straight and level flight. For anything else, it takes the pilot, the copilot, and the flight engineer working together to make the thing fly any kind of intricate maneuver. To watch the three of them put an Mi-17 into a tight LZ in marginal weather is like watching three maestros performing a concert together, but it makes one wonder what would happen to all on board if one or more of the trio were to become a casualty.
The overall simplicity of the Mi-17 is one of the most impressive things about it. This simplicity was demonstrated one day when we were out on an operation and our Mi-17 developed engine trouble. The pilot set us down on a small dirt road by a river; the Flight Engineer climbed up on the top of the aircraft, removed the engine cowling, and proceeded to disassemble the engine. Within a few minutes, there were parts and pieces of the engine lying all over the road, and it began to look to us as if we were out of the ongoing operation for good. But, just as we were about to call in that we were out of the play, the Flight Engineer found the offending engine part, pulled it out, blew on it several times and wiped it on his shirt, then he reassembled the engine, and we took off. Just try doing that with a CH-47 Chinook.
Even though the Mi-17 is a troop transport helicopter, it can be and usually is heavily armed. The Mi-17 can carry a variety of rack mounted weapons and the usual armament consists of rocket pods on the right and left side of the helicopter.
Mi-17s have rear clam-shell doors that can be swung out to take on equipment when the helicopter is on the ground with the engine shut down, but isnt practical for quickly loading and unloading troops. The helicopter can carry thirty-four troops who must enter and depart the aircraft from one small troop door near the front left side of the aircraft, and right beside this troop door is a rocket pod holding twenty 80MM rockets with High Explosive warheads.
Passengers must pass directly in front of this rocket pod when entering or departing the aircraft, and if the pilot feels its necessary during a heliborne assault, hell salvo 10-20 80MM rockets into the LZ and at least one of these rockets will miss fire and still be hanging in the pod and smoking when the helicopter lands. Troops exiting the helicopter must pass directly in front of this smoking rocket, and, needless to say, this gives departing troops incentive to make a very quick exit of the aircraft.
Mounted over the Mi-17s troop door is a hoist with a winch and several hundred feet of steel cable and is used to extract or lower personnel and equipment when an LZ is not available, but the hoist and steel cable have another and more mundane daily use. The five rotor blades on an Mi-17 generate a tremendous amount of static electricity during flight and when it sets down on an LZ on its three rubber tires it retains that charge of electricity until the helicopter is grounded. As an Mi-17 approaches an LZ, the Flight Engineer leans out the troop door, and, using the hoist, he lowers the steel cable with a grounding probe attached in order to ground the helicopter as it touches down. If a soldier walks up and touches an Mi-17 before the Flight Engineer has properly grounded the helicopter, the discharge of static electricity could possibly kill the soldier, or, at a minimum, it will knock him out.
Its almost comical to see an Mi-17 arrive on an LZ to pick up a team, and, even though the Flight Engineer signals its safe to do so, no one wants to be the first to approach the helicopter. All too often, the Flight Engineer thinks he has properly grounded the helicopter but hasnt. Therefore, Mi-17 protocol calls for junior personnel to board the aircraft first.
One of the most revealing things about how the Soviet Union designed and built aircraft or anything else for that matter is that the Mi-17 uses the same door handle on its troop door that’s been used on Russian army trucks since 1935. Apparently when the Mi-17 designer needed a door handle, he simply ordered a vehicle door handle from the door handle factory and was done with it.
If the Mi-17 had been a U.S. helicopter, the production of its troop door handle wouldve been ladled out as a dollop of pork on some U.S. Congressmans District. The contract for this door handle wouldve gone to, probably, the Congressmans brother-in-law. Tens of thousands of dollars wouldve been spent on that door handles R&D, and the final thoroughly tested and approved product wouldve been a one of a kind, ergonomic, Helicopter Door Handle, Type Mi-17 at a cost to the U.S. Taxpayer of at least a $1,000 each, but it wouldve really opened that door in style.
Like the Russian AK-47, the Mi-17 is crude, roughly finished, heavy, and compared to U.S. equipment theyre technically unsophisticated therefore comparatively easy for Third World soldiers to operate and maintain. As different from U.S. military equipment, there was no agenda involved in their design and production other than their utility. Lobbyists, politicians, and industrialists profit didnt enter into the equation as it always does in U.S. weapons procurement.
Sometimes I wonder how we won the Cold War with Russia and the Soviet Union. Or did we really win the war, as the United States now has a Marxist Communist President and Russia now has a Free Market Capitalist President. If that thought doesnt make your head hurt, nothing will.
Well said. It’s the perfect chopper for their needs, and unforgiving environment.
Thanks for a wonderful story and a bunch of laughs.
The ending is sad but terribly true.
My bigger question is, “why are we buying them a damn thing?”
That is my money that is being wasted.
These are shrewd ba*stards we're dealing with, who, once they realize that the American public is beginning to ask embarrassing questions, such as: If we are the world's greatest superpower in the history of mankind, why, can't we bring to a decisive victorious end a war after 10 years of fighting against an enemy who has no navy, no air force and an army that depends on donated weapons?.
There is no acceptable answer, so they will shut it down, the shooting part only. The shooting may stop but the spending will continue as usual, in one way or another.
Sometimes the right tool for the job really is a sledgehammer.
bet it’s half the price and no shipping
Yeah. The AF general officer who proposed this said that if the people back home could get past the knee jerk reaction, they’d see the practicality of this approach.
It’s actually cheaper and better for the Afghans to go this route. The M&O costs of keeping things together for them with U.S. equipment would be crippling for the Afghan government, so we all know who would end up paying it in the end.
But of course the politics of it overshadow the rationality...and you can’t dismiss the irony of the Afghans using Russian equipment, 24 years later, at the behest of the U.S.
Might be a bitter pill to swallow.
Why are we training and arming our enemy? Why is our government in incapable of destroying our enemy? Why is our government wasting our tax dollars on a losing proposition? The only thing we should do in Afghanistan is to protect and maintain our bases in the west so we can project power on Iran. Get our troops out of that hell hole and kill as many Mooslims as possible on the way out. Then rain down agent orange on every poppy field. I could care less about collateral damage that would occur to the people of that death cult.
They should have enough opium money to buy their own damn choppers lol.
Good post. Russian helicopters are like Russian tractors and tanks. Short on sophistication and long on high tolerance ruggedness.
Are you aware that John Deere is making Combines in what is called mother Russia. Yes the Green and Yellow Machines that are made in Moline, Illinois?
Russian planes like Micky Mouse watch, drop watch watch stop, shake watch, watch work again...
Well, I am now. Ain’t capitalism great?
Probably enough to buy us some damn choppers!
And John Deere isn’t what it used to be.
The 4020 durability and practicality are long gone. So is the same in many other brands.
That was a great read, thanks.
So is New Holland.
I agree. We have a 1958 two banger, never had rings, used all the time, starts right up. Also have a 59 Ford F700.
This is not entirely off topic because the durability of this old stuff can be likened to the Russian engineering in that you can beat it to death all day long and at the end of the day it begs for more.
Should the SHTF, this old garbage will still be running.
I have also read that the Mi-17 is better in the “hot and high” environment than the Chinook.
After a series of Chinook crashes in Vietnam, we had a negative opinion of the Chinook and referred to it as the $*it-hook. There was also an oft repeated joke that the Chinook was the only aircraft in the world that could have a mid-air collision with its self.
Current Army Aviation spokesmen claim there is little similarity between todays Chinooks and Vietnam era models, but I'm still not convinced.
Known as Case New Holland (CNH)Global. Came about when Case merged with New holland in Europe. Both John Deere and New Holland have been in Russia since 2010. I did find out that Case was there since 1895.
What the heck it is time I get rid of John Deere Zero Turn and get an Ariens or Gravely. The quality is not in John Deere anymore.
DJ: great analysis!
Thanks for the great insights.
You are absolutely correct. If a multi-megaton nuke is ever detonated over the United States, the EMP released will destroy the electronics in almost every vehicle manufactured since 1990.