- A large portion of the fleet could already be grounded, says head of Russian state exporter.
- The Taliban, however, will be largely unable to use them with little access to maintenance crews and spare parts.
- The Afghan military had 56 Mi-17 helicopters, of which just 32 were usable said a July report from the US SIGAR.
After taking control of war-torn Afghanistan, the Taliban have captured more than 100 Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters from various airbases and army depots, a Russian state arms exporter has claimed.
According to the Interfax news agency, the Taliban have captured over 100 Mi-17 helicopters of various types procured by the US for the Afghan armed forces.
The Taliban, however, will be largely unable to use them with little access to maintenance crews and spare parts, said Alexander Mikheev, the head of the Russian state exporter Rosoboronexporter.
“Of course, this fleet requires repair, maintenance and spare parts supply,” he said, adding that a large portion of the fleet could already be grounded.
Contrary to Mikheev’s estimate for the number of Russian-made helicopters in Afghanistan, a July report from the US special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (Sigar) said that the Afghan military had 56 Mi-17 helicopters, of which just 32 were usable and in the country.
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How many of those helicopters are now in flying condition is unclear, as the US drawdown of its armed forces and the Taliban onslaught have taken a toll on the Afghan air force’s readiness.
Videos had surfaced of Taliban fighters flying in an Mi-17 earlier this month. But there are no signs yet that the Taliban are deploying the helicopters in combat operations.
The US began procuring Mi-17 helicopters in 2005, buying at least 50 from the Russian state exporter before plans to buy an additional 30 helicopters ran into opposition in Congress in 2013.
“As soon as the servicing personnel stop working, the equipment according to Russian standards becomes non-flying,” Mikheev said.
As the Taliban closed in on Kabul, dozens of Afghan pilots fled with their military aircraft across the border into Uzbekistan. A statement by the Uzbekistan government said that 46 Afghan aircraft, including 24 helicopters, had been forced to land in the central Asian country.
Analysis of satellite photos of the aircraft shows that 19 appear to be Mi-17s and nine are Black Hawks.