Air Transportation: NATO Seeks Helicopter Rentals For Afghanistan


October 9, 2007: NATO forces in Afghanistan don't have enough helicopters. This is particularly embarrassing because U.S. forces are better equipped with helicopters, and operate more effectively because of it. The problem is that European nations either don't have helicopters suitable for service in the hot and high (and dusty, and freezing in the Winter) conditions of Afghanistan, or their helicopter units are not organized and trained for service overseas, or the politicians don't want to send their helicopters abroad. The solution is apparently to lease helicopters, including crews and support personnel, from civilian firms. Russian firms are prime candidates. Russian and Ukrainian companies are already supply heavy jet transports for the NATO forces. These same companies have helicopters available as well. The Russians know their choppers will work in Afghanistan, because of their experience during the 1980s. Many of the same helicopter types are still in service, although with updates. Safety and reliability standards for Russian helicopters have also increased. There are also many non-Russian firms that offer helicopter leasing for "challenging environments" (mainly oil field or mining operations support). But the Russians are cheaper, and are less concerned with getting shot at.

In the end, however, the pleas from the NATO troops for more helicopter support, may simply be ignored by the politicians back home.




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