Nine NATO members (including Czech Republic, Albania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) will cooperate in upgrading their Russian Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-171 helicopters, so that will meet NATO requirements. This will make it possible for these nations to use these helicopters in places like Afghanistan, where there is a growing need for that type of helicopter. Helicopters are also in demand for all peacekeeping operations, and the Russian aircraft have proven themselves quite capable of meeting the demand.
The Mi-17 is the export version of the Russian 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 twice 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.