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Will India Deliver Attack Helicopters to Afghanistan?

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Will India Deliver Attack Helicopters to Afghanistan?

The aircraft would be the first offensive weapons supplied by New Delhi to Kabul.

Will India Deliver Attack Helicopters to Afghanistan?

An Afghan Air Force Mi-35 over Kandahar, 2009.

Credit: U.S. Air Force

India is considering transferring four Russian-made attack helicopters to Afghanistan to help the government in Kabul battle the ongoing insurgency in the country The Hindu reports.

The Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai will visit New Delhi this weekend to discuss details of the possible weapons transfer, according to an Indian government source interviewed by The Hindu.

The visit of the Afghan delegation is being seen as a “reach out” to India by the Afghan government the source explains. Afghanistan so far has received only limited military aid from India including a number of jeeps, three unarmed Cheetal Helicopters, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and periodic training programs for Afghan officers.

According to local media, India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, extended an invitation to his counterpart during a phone conversation 12 days ago. The Afghan delegation is also scheduled to meet with India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. The major topic of discussion will first and foremost be the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

“They are under pressure, there’s no doubt about it,” a government official told The Hindu discussing the visit of the Afghans. “Our conversations will be about taking forward the process of close consultations agreed to by PM Modi and President Ghani who have met twice this year.” India has been reluctant to deepen ties with the Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani given his efforts towards a rapprochement with Pakistan.

The Mi-25 (Mi-24D) would be the first offensive weapons supplied by New Delhi to Kabul. The aircraft is an upgraded variant of the Russian-made Mi-24 attack/transport helicopter. The Afghan Air Force is already operating five heavily armored older Mi-35 supplied by the Czech Republic in 2008 but they are rarely operational. The Mi-35 is an export version of the Mi-25.

The Mi-25 is a close-air support aircraft armed with a YakB four-barrelled, 12.7mm, built-in, flexibly mounted machine gun, as well as rocket and grenade launchers. It can be deployed against ground troops including armored and slow moving air targets. It can also serve as a low-capacity troop transport (up to eight paratroopers), and be used for medical evacuation missions.

As I reported previously (See: “Russia to Sell Modern Attack Helicopters to Afghanistan”), Russia is currently also in talks with Afghanistan over the purchase of an unknown number of Mi-35 (likely the M or “Hind E” variant) combat helicopters.

Additionally, the United States has been trying to support the the fledgling Afghan Air Force by dispatching U.S.-made MD-530 F light attack helicopters to the frontlines as a stopgap measure due to delays in the delivery of 20 Brasilian-made Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucanos, aka A-29s, fixed-wing aircraft specifically designed for counter-insurgency operations (See:“Afghanistan’s Newest Attack Helicopter a ‘Total Mess’?”).