Pentagon Finally Stops Buying Helicopters from Shady Russian Company

Sunday, November 24, 2013
Mi-17 helicopter at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Field (photo: Kristin M. Hall, AP)

The Department of Defense will no longer purchase helicopters from a Russian manufacturer repeatedly criticized for its arms sales to repressive foreign regimes.


Rosoboronexport, maker of the Mi-17 helicopter, lost its $345-million-dollar deal to sell 15 more of the aircraft to the Pentagon, which wanted them for the Afghan air force.


Since 2011, the Pentagon has paid $1 billion to Rosoboronexport to provide 63 Mi-17s. Those helicopters are either on order or have already been delivered to Afghanistan. Lawmakers and good government groups complained about the contract, saying the U.S. shouldn’t be doing business with a company accused of selling weapons to Iran and Syria.


Rosoboronexport’s director general, Anatoly Isaykin, defended its company’s sales to Syria, saying it was merely fulfilling contract obligations, which are not barred by any sanctions. Furthermore, “these aren't offensive weapons,” he told the Associated Press (AP). “We are mostly shipping air defense systems and repair equipment for various branches of the military.”


In addition, the deal had the U.S. Army paying $16 million for each helicopter, “while the Navy had purchased the same helicopter from an American company for less than $11 million each,” according to Neil Gordon of the Project on Government Oversight.


Several members of Congress welcomed the Pentagon’s decision to dump the company.


“I applaud the Defense Department’s decision to cancel its plan to buy 15 additional Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an emailed statement to AP. “Doing business with the supplier of these helicopters has been a morally bankrupt policy, and as a nation, we should no longer be subsidizing [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s war crimes in Syria.”


Between the years 2006 and 2010, the U.S. State Department had imposed trade sanctions on Rosoboronexport for being in violation of the U.S. prohibition on arms sales to Iran.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Pentagon Says Nyet To Russian Arms Company (by Neil Gordon, Project On Government Oversight)

Pentagon Ending Buys of Russian-Made Helicopters (by Richard Lardner, Associated Press)

Pentagon Still Insists on Buying Russian Helicopters (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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