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India hands over final pair of Mi-35 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan

The delivery of 2 Mi-24V attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force brings to 12 the total number of gunships supplied by India since 2015

India gave two more Mi-35 helicopter gunships to the Afghan Air Force at a ceremony on Tuesday, October 15.

The Russian-designed Mi-24V large attack helicopter is designated Mi-35 for export.

Indian Ambassador Vinay Kumar handed over a pair of Mi-24V helicopters to acting Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid, the Indian Embassy in Kabul tweeted.

India covered all expenses in a transfer of four refurbished Mi-35 attack helicopters from Belarus, and handed over the first two Mi-35 attack helicopters in May.

“These helicopters are a replacement for the four helicopters gifted by India to [Afghanistan] in 2015/2016,” the embassy said.

According to the July 2019 “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” report published by the U.S. Department of Defense, India transferred four Mi-35s during 2015/2016 and four more during 2018.

The U.S. works with the Afghan Air Force but does not provide advising or funding for Mi-35 aircraft or crew, although it does “continue to sustain” AAF Mi-17 aircraft. The U.S. removed Mi-35s from the authorized fleet in 2015, but “the Afghans continue to attempt to sustain them,” the report said.

The U.S. is instead pushing Afghanistan to “focus on the aircraft that DoD is providing as a part of the aviation modernization program,” a shift from Russian-designed aircraft to a large fleet of U.S.-made UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. The program is not without controversy, and is somewhat slowed by the Pentagon requirement that aircrew first learn English.

During a speech at NATO Headquarters in June, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko said that the alliance’s multilateral approach to training in Afghanistan was delivering dividends.

“In particular, the U.S. military sought to leverage NATO nations with expertise on Soviet-style aircraft
and weapons,” Sopko said. “Czech Air Force advisors were relied upon to provide training on Mi-35 helicopters. Czech and older Afghan airmen spoke Russian, which eliminated the need for linguists and helped build rapport.”

The Czech Republic supplied five Mi-35s to Afghanistan in 2008.

“Likewise, Lithuanian and Hungarian air advisers were valued for their experience with Mi-17 helicopters,” he added.

SIGAR no longer supplies information about Afghan Air Force Mi-35 readiness, but much if not all of the fleet has reportedly been grounded due to technical issues and spare parts logistics problems.

According to The Diplomat, Afghanistan, India, and Russia signed a maintenance deal for the new helicopters in 2018.

NATO refurbishes Afghan Mi-17 helicopters in Europe as shift to Black Hawk continues

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