Military Review

AATP program: Afghanistan is rearming, the US earn


Mi-17V-5 for one of the foreign customers. Photo: Rosoboronexport /

The Afghan army now has several dozen multi-purpose Russian-made Mi-17V-5 helicopters. This technique finds application in solving a variety of problems and has proven itself well. However, a decision was made to abandon it in favor of other foreign designs. At the insistence of the United States, the Afghan command plans to write off the Mi-17V-5 and master new technology - naturally, the American one.

Purchase and Replacement

According to the IISS The Military Balance, Afghanistan has 76 Mi-17 helicopters. The bulk of this park, 63 units, was delivered by Russia under a contract of 2011. The order paid for the so-called Helicopter fund, the main contribution to which the United States makes as part of helping friendly Afghanistan. The last helicopters went to the customer in 2014. For the execution of the order, the Russian side received $ 1,3 billion.

The 2011 contract provided for the extension and ordering of new batches of equipment. However, in 2014, relations between Russia and the United States deteriorated sharply, which excluded the possibility of new deliveries. In addition, Washington and Kabul had problems with the repair and maintenance of equipment - for this they had to turn to organizations from third countries.

In 2017, the United States launched the Afghan Aviation Transition Plan (AATP) program, which aims to replace army equipment aviation Afghanistan with the complete crowding out of Russian samples. According to the original plans, until 2021, all Afghan Mi-17V-5 were to give way to 159 American UH-60A Black Hawk. Soon, several U.S. helicopters underwent repairs and modernization, after which they went to Afghanistan.

Updated plans

In December 2019, the Department of Defense sent Congress another report of Enhancing Security and Stability In Afghanistan, describing the current situation and current plans. Together with other topics, the document revealed the state of the Afghan helicopter fleet, as well as the main ways of its modernization.

Mi-17 of the Afghan army during a joint operation, 2011. Photo: US Army

According to the report, the Air Force has a total of 45 Mi-17V-5 helicopters. Other vehicles were lost under certain circumstances, both due to enemy actions and due to insufficient personnel qualifications. 23 helicopters are operational and ready for service. Other machines need repair.

The second operator of the Mi-17V-5 is the "special operations wing" special mission wing (SMW). He owns 30 Russian-made helicopters used for transportation of personnel, fire support and other support for special operations.

According to Pentagon plans, the last Russian helicopters will be decommissioned in 2024, when the Afghan Air Force and SMW will receive a sufficient amount of US-made equipment. At the same time, supply plans were revised - with a decrease in the total quantity, but an extension of the list of types and modifications.

Previously, it was planned to supply 159 UH-60A helicopters, including several dozen transport and combat UH-60FFF. Now their number has been reduced to 53 units. - This is how the current needs of the SMW and the Air Force are assessed. Along with this, it is proposed to transfer to Afghanistan up to 20 CH-47 Chinook helicopters with higher performance. This technique is intended only for the Special Operations Wing.

One of the advantages of the Mi-17V-5 is the convenience of landing and disembarkation. Photo: US Army

As follows from recent reports and reports, the US will not build equipment from scratch. Helicopters will be decommissioned in the US Army, repaired and modernized according to the latest projects, and then transferred to a friendly country. It was reported that Afghanistan will be given the repaired UH-60 of the eighties. The age of CH-47, planned for transfer, has not yet been specified.

Who benefits?

It is easy to guess that the latest events around the Afghan helicopter fleet are exclusively related to politics and economics. Disputes of this kind arose even at the stage of placing the order in 2011, although at that time they managed to defend it. To date, the situation has seriously changed and is not conducive to continued cooperation with Russia.

Recall in the 2010-11 tender. The Russian Mi-17V-5 helicopter outperformed several foreign competitors due to the successful balance of tactical, technical and operational characteristics. The advantages of this machine are a relatively large carrying capacity, the ability to solve various problems and adaptability to work at mountain airfields. In addition, the Mi-17V-5 is quite easy to maintain, and Afghan specialists already had experience working with Soviet and Russian-made equipment.

The upcoming contract with Russia was severely criticized. In fact, it provided for the purchase of equipment for an ally from a potential enemy. However, technical and operational aspects prevailed over politics, as well as the desire to support its own manufacturer.

Another example of accelerated loading through a ramp. Photo: US Army

In the future, the political situation in the world changed, which led to serious problems. Afghan helicopters needed maintenance and repair, but the United States could no longer entrust such work to Russian enterprises. There was a way out in the form of cooperation with Slovakia, but this almost led to a scandal.

In 2017, they launched a new AATP program, the conditions of which exclude the supply of equipment from third countries. Due to this, US-Afghan cooperation will no longer depend on a strategic adversary represented by Russia.

In addition, the issue of finance is of great importance. This time, money for the modernization and delivery of helicopters will go to American companies and remain in the United States. In 2017, it was reported that the preparation of the first batch of UH-60A helicopters out of 53 units. will cost $ 814 million. The cost of work on 20 CH-47 has not yet been reported. However, it is clear that the total cost for the supply of helicopters will exceed $ 1-1,1 billion. Thus, the helicopter fleet of Afghanistan is too much commercial interest to trust its updating to third countries.

Wide range of problems

It is obvious that the transfer of the Air Force and SMW of Afghanistan to the new helicopter equipment will not be simple and painless. Kabul and Washington will have to deal with a host of problems of a very different nature. Some of them make operation and use difficult, while others can lead to accidents or disasters.

First of all, two countries will have to provide retraining of flight and technical personnel. According to American estimates, retraining a pilot from Mi-17V-5 to UH-60A takes only 3 months, preparation from scratch takes more than a year. Training technicians is no less difficult. However, its results are far from obvious.

Helicopter and landing on exercises, November 10, 2013. Photo: US Air Force

The operational experience of Russian helicopters shows that the technical staff does not always cope with their work, and the Mi-17V-5 is considered relatively easy to operate. One can imagine what risks will arise when operating more complex UH-60 or CH-47. A life cycle cost increase is also expected due to the origin of the machinery itself and its spare parts.

At one time, the Mi-17V-5 outperformed its competitors due to its good transportation capabilities. In the mountainous conditions of Afghanistan, it is capable of lifting at least 2 tons of cargo placed in a comfortable cabin with a stern ramp. The American UH-60A has only side doors, and its carrying capacity in the mountains is limited to 1 ton.

For the CH-47, the maximum load exceeds 12 tons. Even with a decrease in performance with increasing height, the Chinook is ahead of the Mi-17V-5 in carrying capacity. However, this helicopter is larger and heavier than the Russian one, as well as more expensive and more difficult to maintain.

The Russian machine compares favorably with the ability to carry a wide range of weapons to support ground forces. On the Mi-17V-5 machine gun mounts are mounted in the openings; there is an external suspension for machine-gun and cannon containers, unguided missiles, etc. American cars are armed with machine guns. The UH-60FFF also receives LASS pylons for the suspension of other weapons.

AATP Results

According to current plans, the implementation of the AATP program will end in 2024. A total of about 7 years and about $ 1 billion will be spent on its implementation. The result will be a change in the composition and structure of the helicopter fleet of the army aviation and the “wing of special operations” with mixed consequences.

The first two UH-60A transferred to Afghanistan in 2017. Photo by the US Army

It is proposed to remove from service all 76 available Mi-17s of various modifications. Perhaps the equipment suitable for further exploitation will be sold to other countries. Instead, Afghanistan will receive 53 UH-60A helicopters, including a number of armed "FFF", as well as 20 CH-47. For the three countries that are somehow involved in this situation, all these processes will have different meanings.

The United States will benefit from an economic and political character - an ally will be “tied” stronger with its equipment, and the money for its purchase will remain in the country. At the same time, Russia will not be able to receive a new order for the Mi-17V-5, provided for in the 2011 agreement (although no one had counted on it for a long time).

In the most difficult situation are the Afghan Air Force and SMW. They will not only have to learn new equipment and increase spending on its maintenance, but also to rebuild the army logistics system, as well as revise plans for combat use. American helicopters differ significantly from Russian ones in their characteristics, and this can affect various aspects of operation. In addition, it seems that Afghanistan will have to prepare for an increase in accident rate.

However, in this situation, the leading role remains with the United States. The party paying for the rearmament decides for itself what its foreign partner needs and chooses helicopters for it. There are no prerequisites for changing this situation. Apparently, the AATP program will successfully end with the rearmament of the Afghan army, but without Russian participation.
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  1. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U 26 May 2020 05: 48
    In 2011, it was a shame to the merikatos, for our money we took our turntables, and now we. But
    In the most difficult situation are the Afghan Air Force and SMW.
    they are generally sad, although who cares about the problems of puppets ...
    1. Nosgoth
      Nosgoth 26 May 2020 18: 24
      The money is not theirs (USA), but Afghan money, which they raised for the sale of natural resources of the captured country, and this is a penny compared to the stolen one.
      1. Vladimir_2U
        Vladimir_2U 27 May 2020 07: 51
        Quote: Nosgoth
        and this is a penny compared to stolen

        You reassured me directly. )))
      2. Bad_gr
        Bad_gr 28 May 2020 01: 22
        Quote: Nosgoth
        The money is not theirs (USA), but Afghan money, which they raised for the sale of natural resources of the captured country, and this is a penny compared to the stolen one.

        Not a damn thing there. If there is anything worthwhile, it is not developed at all. Afghanistan used to be a rich country when caravan routes passed through it. Due to this, and rich. Now poverty, disease (typhoid, hepatitis, fever and a whole bunch of different things.) Now they are only making money on drugs.
        In general, there is nothing to do there.
  2. rocket757
    rocket757 26 May 2020 06: 45
    Who pays ... he will be skinned from the ram.
  3. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 26 May 2020 06: 54
    To the well-known expression "nothing personal, only business" you can add "politics" as well.
    Too many angles of the dubious 2014 mnogohodovka returning to us ...
  4. GMM
    GMM 26 May 2020 07: 14
    The American side bought helicopters from us nine years ago and will continue to carry them for another 4 years.
    Now, if they did not encounter the problem of servicing Russian helicopters by the holding, however, like absolutely all operators of our equipment around the world, the purchase of new equipment and updating the helicopter fleet of Afghanistan at the expense of the United States would continue.
    In this case, blame is only on yourself, or rather on the management of the holding, Russian helicopters, where by the way the former Minister of Defense Serdyukov is listed among the top managers who consciously pursue such a policy - aimed at uniting design bureaus, production facilities, repair facilities, and allies under one roof with subsequent launching the sale of shares of an allegedly unprofitable holding.
    Who cares, you can find information on the Internet how Russian helicopters have already tried to sell shares of the holding to our foreign partners ...
    1. V.I.P.
      V.I.P. 26 May 2020 14: 07
      Do not worry. Sell ​​if the shares are interesting to someone))
    2. sgrabik
      sgrabik 27 May 2020 10: 57
      Here are the pigs, these "effective" managers, in vain they were admitted to the leadership of the defense industry complex, they will ruin everything there and sell it off, we had the same thing in the 90s, have we still not learned to draw useful experience from our own past? mistakes, and about Serdyukov, this grief - a reformer, an optimizer, there are no words at all, this person who, with his extremely thoughtless and absolutely unjustified reforms, almost destroyed our army, instead of incurring a well-deserved punishment for all his actions, was again appointed to the leading a position in one of the key areas - aircraft construction, apparently it's time to optimize and then eventually completely ruin it, well, this is to buy everything you need abroad later, here they are liberals - in all their glory, you need to drive them around the neck yet late!!!
  5. Vitaly Tsymbal
    Vitaly Tsymbal 26 May 2020 07: 33
    No wonder !!!! Afghan Air Force created thanks to Soviet Russia
    On August 21, 1924, the Politburo decided to expedite the transfer of aircraft to Amanullah Khan, as well as send pilots and mechanics for the aircraft in Afghanistan. According to the order defined by the head of the Red Army Air Force A.P. Rozengolts, the planes had to be driven by their own power through the air, and weapons, ammunition and spare parts - by caravan route. The composition of the Soviet group was as follows: pilots Yu. N. Arvatov, M. M. Garanin, V. V. Goppe, A. I. Zalevsky, Y. Ya. Jacobson and technicians V. A. Voinsky, S. A. Lisitsky, M.P. Starooskoltsev, I.I.Sinyavsky. The transfer was subject to 4 De Havilland DH9A bombers and one Junkers F-13 transport aircraft. The flight was supposed to be made through the Hindu Kush at an altitude of over 5000 m, which was the practical ceiling of the De Havilland DH9A aircraft. According to various sources, Soviet planes arrived in Kabul on September 30 or October 1, 1924. The aircraft made their first sortie on October 5 of the same year, scattering leaflets and dropping bombs in the Zurmakh region. In total, Soviet pilots made 4 sorties, and bombs were dropped next to the positions of the rebels, with the goal of only scaring them. In February 1925, the last hotbeds of resistance were crushed by government forces. After the uprising in Khost, the Afghan Air Force, which became a real force, came under the complete control of Soviet specialists. In the summer of 1925, there were 5 pilots and 8 mechanics from the USSR in Kabul. In the spring of 1925, 3 Afghans who studied there returned from Italy (pilot Muhammad Ihsan Khan, observer Muhammad Hashim Khan and aircraft mechanic Gulam Dastgir). Muhammad Ihsan Khan's flying qualities were evaluated extremely low - during the training he managed to crash at least 2 aircraft. Despite this, he, as the only Afghan pilot, was appointed commander of the air fleet. Also in the Afghan service was one Indian pilot.

    Kudashev, U. N. The Air Force of Afghanistan in 1921–1929 / U. N. Kudashev. - Text: direct // Young scientist. - 2016. - No. 17 (121). - S. 249-254. - URL:

    In the 60s, our aircraft returned to Afghanistan, and now we’re leaving again, but it’s quite possible we’ll come back again !!!!
  6. Glory1974
    Glory1974 26 May 2020 11: 06
    The Americans bought helicopters from us, because they were profitable.
    The question is what happened, why now it is not profitable for them.
    Either this is politics, or solely business.
    In any case, the United States solves its problems, and Russia and Russian Helicopters must solve theirs.
  7. iouris
    iouris 26 May 2020 13: 44
    And about the disaster, not a word. And there are two of them in recent days!
    1. vadim dok
      vadim dok 26 May 2020 16: 36
      With helicopters? It’s a couple of helicopters in the Russian Federation that fell, One near Moscow - 3 dead.
  8. L-39NG
    L-39NG 26 May 2020 17: 29
    Previously, very "first persons" flew in the suburbs on vacation in a troika (to confuse terrorists) MI-8/17, and now they fly by Italians, well, maybe the Russian "screwdriver" assembly. Politics or comfort? Although how things are now with these Italians is not clear. The fish is looking deeper ...
    1. Bad_gr
      Bad_gr 28 May 2020 01: 26
      Quote: L-39NG
      The fish is looking where deeper ...

      people, where the fish are larger.
  9. TermNachTer
    TermNachTer 29 June 2020 11: 46
    I would like to see how illiterate Afghan technicians will serve a damn not easy to maintain (generally I am silent about repairs) mattress turntables. And who wants to fly on turntables that are served by such clumsy little hands? Well, if you fly over the desert - there is a place for emergency landing. And over the mountains?
    1. CBRE FB
      CBRE FB 8 October 2020 21: 01
      in the same way as more than half of the "super reliable and maintainable" and generally unparalleled Russian Mi
      1. TermNachTer
        TermNachTer 9 October 2020 08: 59
        Do you want to compare the cost of the turntable itself and its repair?))))