Pentagon Cancels Plans To Buy Russian Helicopters

By Warren Strobel/Reuters

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.

No charges have been filed in the case.

“The Army’s mishandling of this arms program, as well as the Afghan military’s inability to maintain the helicopters, further underscores why this contract should have been canceled long ago,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement.

“I applaud (the Defense Department) for correcting this wrong, and hope the agency buys American in the future,” added Blumenthal, whose state is home to helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft, a division of United Technologies Corp.

Blumenthal said he plans to introduce legislation that would ban contracts “with foreign companies that enable war crimes in Syria.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called Cornyn last week to tell him the Pentagon was cancelling the additional helicopter purchases, according to a Senate aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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

A U.S. Army planning document, dated November 6 and obtained by Reuters, shows that the service had planned to deliver a total of 30 Mi-17s for the Afghan Air Force’s Special Mission Wing between now and October 1, 2014.

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