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Saying that Russian-built helicopters are “well-suited for Afghanistan,” US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the United States is interested in buying Russian Mi-17 helicopters in the ongoing battle against Taliban forces.
“We are obviously interested in buying Mi-17 helicopters. They are well-suited for Afghanistan. Afghans are familiar with them,” Gates said in an interview with Interfax.
Although the number of Russian-built military aircraft the US military wants to buy is said to be “limited”, Gates admitted that he has received flak from US helicopter manufacturers who are asking why America is interested in buying Russian models.
The reason for NATO’s interest in the multi-role Russian-built helicopter is its greater carrying capacity as compared with the US-made Black Hawk.
In 2008, the Royal Thai Army, for example, announced a deal to buy six Mi-17s, marking the first time the Thai military acquired Russian aircraft instead of American.