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The US Pushed Afghanistan To Swap Their Russian Helos For Black Hawks. That Was A Mistake
The U.S. Army’s Black Hawk helicopters are less capable for some missions conducted by Afghanistan’s Air Force than the Russian-made ones they’re replacing, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general.
It’s a setback six years after lawmakers started pushing for the U.S. to stop buying the Mi-17 sold by Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned weapons exporter, in light of President Vladimir Putin’s interventions abroad. The Afghan military, which is working to develop its Air Force’s capabilities, has been flying the Russian-made helicopter since the 1980s.
The transition to Black Hawks made by Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Aircraft unit “presents several challenges that have yet to be fully addressed,” Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote in his latest quarterly assessment of U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan, posted in May, the same month the first Black Hawk was flown in an Afghanistan operation.
“Black Hawks do not have the lift capability” of the Russian aircraft, Fine wrote. The helicopters also “are unable to accommodate some of the larger cargo items the Mi-17 can carry, and in general it takes almost two Black Hawks to carry the load of a single Mi-17,” Fine said. “Unlike the Mi-17, Black Hawks cannot fly at high elevations and, as such, cannot operate in remote regions of Afghanistan where Mi-17s operate.”
As the Mi-17 is phased out in favor of the Black Hawk, the challenges “will become more pronounced,” Fine wrote.
Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an email that the Defense Department determined that Black Hawks, which are designated UH-60s, could perform as much as 90 percent of the missions the Mi-17 fleet was performing.
Lawmakers started pushing the Pentagon in 2012 to replace the Mi-17, after it was disclosed that the helicopters were being used against civilians by President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. The Defense Department agreed in 2013 not to buy Mi-17s beyond the 86 already purchased.
In fiscal 2017, after heavy lobbying by lawmakers from Connecticut, where the Black Hawk is built, Congress appropriated $814 million to deploy 159 of them over time. The Mi-17 is being phased out in Afghanistan, from about 47 today to 12 by December 2022.
Faulkner said the Black Hawk “can fly at the required mission altitudes at which the Afghan Mi-17 missions are typically flown.” He said “in many cases the UH-60 is as, or more, capable than the Mi-17” and that one version “provides more firepower than the Mi-17 variant, which is limited to rockets only and is less maneuverable.”
Aside from flying capabilities, Fine wrote that the Afghan Air Force performs 80 percent of maintenance on the Mi-17 but will have to depend on contractors “in the near- to mid-term” for the more complex Black Hawk.
That’s because the Mi-17’s maintenance tasks are “much more conducive to the educational level available in the general Afghan population,” Air Force officials in Afghanistan told Fine’s auditors, according to his report.
“Virtually all militaries that have operational aviation fleets are reliant on contractors for maintenance,” said Faulkner, the Pentagon spokesman. “The Afghan Air Force is no different, and as we are in the early stages of maintenance training, they will be more reliant” on contractors initially “but this reliance will diminish over time.”
Black Hawks have “significantly lower” operating costs than Mi-17s, and the changeover will “enable a shift from a Russian supply chain to a well-established and reliable U.S. supply chain,” Faulkner said.
©2018 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
The Pentagon has identified a Green Beret who was killed on Tuesday by enemy small arms fire in southern Afghanistan as Staff Sgt. Joshua Z. Beale.
Beale was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He was killed during combat operations in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
Coast Guard Commandant Blasts Government Shutdown That's Forced Service Members 'To Rely On Food Pantries And Donations'
The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard called the ongoing partial government shutdown "unacceptable" following reports that some Coast Guardsmen are relying on donations from food pantries while their regular paychecks remain on hold.
"We're five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay," Adm. Karl Schultz said in a video message to service members. "You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden."
The battlefield of the future could feature robot medics delivering life-saving care to casualties in the line of fire. At least, that's what the Army is aiming for — and it's willing to pay millions for help doing it.
YPSILANTI, MI - When a brigade of U.S. troops was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army in the Song Tra Cau riverbed on the morning of May 15, 1967, Lt. Charles Kettles volunteered to lead the rescue, and he refused, again and again, to back down when faced with a barrage of gunfire.
His aircraft badly damaged, left spilling fuel, and his gunner was severely injured during the treacherous operation.
But he helicoptered in and out of the battlefield four times, saving the lives of 44 soldiers in a death-defying emergency operation that would become a legendary tale of bravery in the Vietnam War.
Nearly 50 years later, Kettles received the Medal of Honor on July 18, 2016.