Training Helicopters for Afghanistan from MD Begin Deliveries

by: Matthew Potter
September 14, 2011

Category: Business Line, Companies, Congress, Countries, Events, FMS, logistics, Military Aviation, training | RSS 2.0

Earlier this year the U.S. Army awarded MD Helicopters a contract to begin production of training helicopters for the Afghan military. The initial contract was for 6 aircraft but up to 54 could be purchased at a value of almost $200 million. The small aircraft would be used for initial pilot training. The Afghan military operates a mix of primarily Russian aircraft suited more to their experience.

The winning of this contract was quite a coup for MD Helicopters and its owner, Ms. Lynn Tilton, as it is the first major U.S. defense contract the company has had since she bought it in 2005.

The six initial aircraft were delivered this week several weeks ahead of schedule. At a ceremony at the company’s Mesa, AZ plant Army officials along with local and national government figures celebrated the acceptance of the systems.

The U.S. has managed the acquisition of weapons for the new Afghan government and military for almost ten years now. They have primarily focused on getting small arms and slowly building up more complex and heavier weapons. Rotary wing assets are key to the fighting in that country due to the roads and the spread out nature of the population. The U.S. and its allies have relied on a variety of their own and leased helicopters to conduct supply and support missions.

The U.S. has already procured several Mil-17 transport helicopters for use by the Afghans. This has raised some hackles in Congress who feel U.S. manufactured equipment should be the priority. The contract to MD Helicopters and one to Cessna for training fixed wing aircraft should mollify some of those critics.

As the U.S. begins its draw down from the area more investment will have to be made in systems like this to help the Afghans get ready to defend themselves. This is an opportunity for U.S. defense contractors to at least gain some of this work and help potentially offset any cuts due to the reductions in U.S. defense spending.

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