Afghanistan has bought four more Mi-17 helicopters, via a U.S. broker, paying about $11 million each. The Mi-17 is the export version of the Mi-8, a twin-engine helicopter, roughly equivalent to the U.S. UH-1. But the Mi-8/17 is still in production and is the most widely exported (2,800 out of 12,000 made) helicopter on the planet.
The Mi-8 is about twice the size and weight of the UH-1, but only hauls about 50 percent more cargo. However, the Mi-8 had a larger interior, and can carry 24 troops, versus a dozen in the UH-1. The UH-1 was replaced by the UH-60 in the 1980s, while the Mi-8 just kept adding better engines and electronics to the basic Mi-8 frame. But the UH-60, while weighing as much as the UH-1 (4.8 tons), could carry as much as the 12 ton Mi-8. But the Mi-8 costs about half as much as a UH-60, and the larger interior is popular with many users. Russia offers lower rates for training pilots and mechanics. Russia is keen on establishing good relations with Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which have been good customers in the past. While the Afghans are still somewhat ticked off at the Russians because of the 1980s war, the Iraqis have fond memories of the Russians, and their military equipment. It was Russia that supplied most of the weapons for Iraq during the 1980s war with Iran. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have many veterans who flew and maintained Mi-17s in the past.