Pentagon Finally Surrenders, Cancels New Purchase of Russian Helicopters Through Dealer Supplying Syria

Back in June, I wrote about the deceit employed by the Pentagon in going against the advice of SIGAR (pdf) and explicit language in the NDAA to purchase Russian Mi-17 helicopters through the arms dealer Rosoboronexport. Because Rosoboronexport has been supplying weapons to the Assad regime in Syria, the helicopter purchase took on additional levels of outrage. It appears that the Pentagon did get about half of the helicopters it wanted by claiming to use leftover 2012 funds (use of 2013 funds for the helicopters was banned in the NDAA), but they have now cancelled plans to use 2014 funds for the remaining helicopters that had been planned.

Both AP and Reuters inform us of the cancellation of the order. The Reuters story notes that the procurement system for the helicopters is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation:

Reuters reported in August that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service had opened a criminal probe into the Huntsville, Alabama, Army aviation unit that oversees the Mi-17 program, and ties between the unit’s former chief and two foreign subcontractors.

Texas Senator John Cornyn did a bit of a victory dance over the cancellation. As described in the AP story:

Bipartisan opposition to the Mi-17 acquisition grew as the violence in Syria escalated and U.S. relations with Russia deteriorated. A growing number of lawmakers from both political parties objected to acquiring military gear from Rosoboronexport, which has provided Assad’s regime with weapons used against Syrian civilians.

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

But this victory by opponents of the sale comes after a large victory by the Pentagon in the earlier battles:

Rosoboronexport announced Monday that 12 of the Mi-17s had been delivered to Afghanistan in the month of October. The shipments, the export agency said, reflected the joint effort between Russia and the U.S. to combat international terrorism.

The AP story spends a bit of time on how Mi-17’s were chosen:

Top U.S. military officials have maintained the Russian-made helicopters are ideally suited for the Afghans, who are rebuilding their air force and need a reliable and easy-to-operate helicopter for transporting troops throughout the country’s harsh environment.


Cornyn and other members of Congress also argued the Defense Department should have more seriously considered acquiring an American-made helicopter for the Afghans. The U.S. Army’s Chinook, manufactured by defense giant Boeing in Pennsylvania, and a transport helicopter made by Sikorsky in Connecticut, were among the possible options.


Carter told House lawmakers in September that multiple reviews and assessments were conducted of more than two dozen helicopters that were either available or in development. Carter said the Afghans are very familiar with the Mi-17 and none of the other aircraft examined met the requirements.

That last bit about “none of the other aircraft examined met the requirements” is the most infuriating to me. And that is where Congress should be directing its energies, but I see no evidence of it. Here is how I described what I thought to be the worst part of this fiasco back in June:

Despite the fact that the US has been at war in Afghanistan continuously for almost twelve years now, and despite the spectacular failure of US helicopters under haboob (dust storm) conditions in the failed April, 1980 Iran hostage rescue attempt, it appears that Russian helicopters are more reliable in desert conditions and easier to maintain in flying order with a less sophisticated ground crew than US helicopters.

Why aren’t Congressional war hawks calling for the US to develop a helicopter that can function under desert conditions? This is one actual military development project that could have a real justification and yet I see no calls for a directed effort to solve a huge existing problem.

There is a second aspect to this fiasco that also is escaping high levels of attention. Tucked nearly at the end of the Reuters article, we have this bit:

It remains unclear whether the Pentagon has alternative plans to bolster the Afghan Air Force’s capabilities to fight militants and drug trafficking.

As I noted back in June, among the gigantic errors the US made in attempting to procure the helicopters was the decision of where in the Afghan government the operation should be housed. The US took an existing operation within Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior that was aimed at drug interdiction and moved it to the Ministry of Defense so that the operation would be run by Afghanistan’s Special Operations forces. The new operation would be tasked with both counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations. The result of this move has been to create a giant turf war within the Afghan government. Oh, and the counternarcotics bit is going swimmingly, as we learned yesterday that a record acreage of poppies was harvested this year.


4 replies
  1. bloodypitchfork says:

    quote:” Oh, and the counternarcotics bit is going swimmingly, as we learned yesterday that a record acreage of poppies was harvested this year.” unquote

    Shades of Michael Hayden. whudda thunk. Speaking of the plumb bob of CIA Torturer’s and the architect or our current NSA Surveillance State, Poppy fixes notwithstanding, not many people I’ve talked too even know who he is..except a vague memory of him as one of those wunnerful military Generals who “defended our freedoms”. gak. If they only had a clue..

    quote:”Hayden ran the NSA, and after 9/11 followed many Americans into the fever swamps of terror illogic, abandoning his once-held belief that the state should in some way be restricted from spying on its own citizens. The NSA under his direction started a domestic phone call database, helped Bush gut FISA, and helped establish the drone program that now stealthily murders its way across Afghanistan and countries we’re nominally not even at war with, like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. As director of the CIA from 2006 — imagine, he was already so bad on domestic spying at his point that the likes of Dianne Feinstein opposed him — he loved him some controlled near-drowning of alleged terrorists.”unquote

    priceless..even pond scum Feinstein.. ahem..”opposed” him. That’s like a pile of shit calling foul on a Perineal Abscess while their both draining from the same asshole.

    Irony at it’s finest. But guess what? speaking of poppys and fixs’ it any wonder, as head of the CIA in 2006, the Poppy/Opium crop in Afghanistan exploded, even though.. ahem.. “eradication” efforts doubled..right. unhuh

    quote:”Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin, broke all records in “2006″, reaching a historic high despite ongoing U.S.-sponsored eradication efforts, …”unquote

    Fix’s indeed. BILLIONS. It doesn’t take a tinfoil hat to add 2+2..afterall, as one of his CIA predecessors, who..ironically appointed Hayden to the CIA,(geeee, whudda thunk?)… Mr. drug runner himself, daddy George ran the program in Central America to heights unseen since the Big Bang. All it took was a little ole CIA front company called Aero Services to mod B-26′s to haul the stash..and Olie North to run it..well then, by all means..let’s make some moola!

    And then, thanks to DOJ’s monumental effort to steal the Promis software, and HUD’s little modification, once the CIA had it, now they could track the drugs into HUD housing programs. Amongst other things(like NSA) How sweet. Once Katherin Austin Fitt’s found out though..well, that’s another story.

    Speaking of other stories..well, just connect the ATF dots…ie..their Fast and Furious program to let guns “walk” across the Mexican border..right into the hands of the Cartels. And then just have the FBI set up “sources” that they allowed to bring drugs in from Mexico by the ton..and even looked the other way when these sources murdered people..and on and on and on…

    youbetcha..a BIG CLUB and we ain’t in it. But you can bet your sweet bippy..Michael Hayden is…to this day.

    ok, sorry for the drift. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. :)

    ps. All this shit is documented. You just have to search for it..that is..if you have the stomach.

  2. scribe says:

    Why aren’t Congressional war hawks calling for the US to develop a helicopter that can function under desert conditions? This is one actual military development project that could have a real justification and yet I see no calls for a directed effort to solve a huge existing problem.

    Short answer – it’s not sexy-sexy high tech enough.

    Longer answer – the things that make helicopters usable in nasty desert conditions by less-than-educated local ground crews are the same things which make AK-47s the gun of choice in the under-developed world. Loose machining tolerances, overly strong components, simple design, low maintenance requirements, and making up for that last 2 percent of performance with reliability and the ability to get that performance not from the machine but the user. You can take an AK, give it to an uneducatedm illiterate tribesman with five minutes instruction on how to use, disassemble, clean and reassemble it, fill it with sand, mud and water and not clean it for a month, and it will fire first time, every time. Even think about trying that with an M-16 and the user, if he’s in a fight, will die because it will not work.

    Rust on your AK? Shoot it and the rust comes off.

    No small parts to lose on the AK – one of the key parts of an M16 is a cotter pin about a half an inch long without which the bolt parts will come apart during firing and cycling the first or second shot. Some places in an M16, if you get a single grain of sand in them – and these places are exposed to the outside – you can not disassemble the gun without tools not issued to individuals.

    Those same problems are writ large in the way the US designs and builds everything military. And, the more complex the instrumentality, the worse the problem.

    So, we can’t do it. It’s just like when it came out a couple years ago (when Texas was going to build some nucular power plants) that the US no longer has the industrial capability to make some of the parts needed and would have to go to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCo) as a joint venturer in the plant. You’ll recall, that came out about two weeks after Fukushima, built and run by TEPCo, blew up.

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