Warplanes: Iraq Loves Its Russian Mi-17 Helicopters

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March 4, 2006: The Iraqi air force has received eight of ten Mi-17 helicopters from Russia. This was the first aircraft acquired by the air force on their own, without Coalition involvement. It's a reliable choice. Iraq has used Russian helicopters for decades, and the Mi-17 was recently acquired by Afghanistan and Colombia as well. 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 also 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 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.

The Iraqis actually obtained their Mi-17s from Poland, who is also supplying maintenance services. By next year, the Iraqis hope to have 24 Mi-17s in service. The Iraqi air force also has 16 refurbished UH-1 Hueys, and five similar Bell 206 Jet Rangers.

 


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