Procurement: The Terminator Comes In Peace

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February 4, 2009: Iran has begun receiving the five Russian Mi-171 medical evacuation helicopters it ordered fifteen months ago. All five should arrive in the next two months. While basically a transport helicopter, the Mi-171 can easily be modified to carry weapons. This model is nicknamed "The Terminator. " But the basic Mi171 is based on the 1975 era Mi-17, which is the export version of similar Mi-8.

Weighing about 12 tons, and carrying a four ton load, the Mi-171 has a range of 590 kilometers at a cruising speed of 250 kilometers per hour. There is a crew of three, and as many passengers as can be squeezed in (about 40 people, but usually just 20 or so.) A sling underneath can also carry up to four tons.

The gunship version has the crew areas protected (against bullets and shell fragments) by armor. The Terminator normally carries machine-gun, rockets and bombs, and is also wired for using eight 9M114 (Spiral) air to surface missiles, or air-to-air missiles. There is a targeting radar up front. Avionics are often Western, which makes it an easier sell to foreign nations.

Several hundred Mi-171s have been exported. The helicopter is rugged, inexpensive ($4-5 million each) and better suited for less affluent nations. Development of this model was completed in 1998 and Russia has been pushing sales hard. Iran paid nearly double the usual price for its Mi-171s, indicating that additional spare parts and technical services may have been included. Components needed to turn the Mi-171s into the Terminator variant may have been part of the deal as well, in addition to bribes for making the deal happen.

 

 


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