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The United States ordered 31 Mi-17 helicopters at a cost of US$1.07 billion from Russia to give to the Afghan Army. We are told that no U.S. produced helicopters could better serve Afghanistan's needs.
The Mi-17 helicopter is produced by Russia for export from a domestic base design. It is propelled by more powerful twin engines which enable greater performance than in earlier models, including a higher ceiling, higher speed, greater payloads, lower fuel consumption, and flight using a single engine. The power gains mean that the latest version of the Mi-17 helicopter can be put to greater use than prior models.
A special rotor hub made from titanium was developed for the export version Mi-17 helicopter. With more powerful engines, in the event of a single engine failure, power is raised and automatically transferred to the remaining engine.
Features unique to the export helicopter version are debris filters fitted to the engine intakes. The tail rotor of the Mi-17 is positioned on the opposite side (left) of that on the domestic version. Common to all versions are bumper rods extending from the bottom of tail boom to protect the tail rotor from ground strikes.
A pair of clam shell doors positioned at the rear of the Mi-17 fuselage facilitates the loading and unloading of vehicles. There is a doppler radar located in the lower tail boom of the helicopter that provides distance to ground information during low level maneuvering.
The Mi-17 helicopter has been modified and improved throughout the years since it was introduced in the early 1980's so that it is capable of performing a variety of civil, and military missions. Its size, lifting capacity, ease of maintenance, and ruggedness make it ideal for humanitarian missions.
Aerflot Russian airlines first used Mi-17 helicopters for carrying passengers in typical airline style seating arrangements. A total of thirty combat ready soldiers can be carried in the folding seats placed along the inside fuselage sides of the military version, and 12 stretchers can be accommodated in the search and rescue version.
A strong winch is installed above the left side cabin door of the Mi-17 helicopter to aid in its use as a search and rescue vehicle. A relatively long range provided by optional internal and external fuel tanks enables missions to areas which other helicopters would find difficult to reach. Mi-17 helicopters have also been used by forestry departments and services, equipped with a bucket slung beneath the helicopter for water bombing.
For military usage the Mi-17 helicopter can be equipped as an assault helicopter with a 20 mm cannon in its nose, and up to 3,300 lbs. of anti-tank or air-to-air missiles, or other ordnance, on six hard points. Other military Mi-17 helicopters have been equipped with search radar and weapons targeting systems. A version of the Mi-17, first used by Hungry, is equipped for command and control with radar, long range sensors, and RF jamming equipment.
A total of some 12,012 Mi-17 helicopters of all types have been produced to date.