Russia has inked a new deal with Laos for the repair of military equipment.
According to media reports, Russian Helicopters, which is part of the state firm Rostec, signed the contract with the Laotian defense ministry. Under the four-year deal, experts from the firm will carry out helicopter repairs. Among the equipment to be serviced are two Mil Mi-17-1B and two Mi-17 multipurpose helicopters, the latter of which will be upgraded to Mi-17-1B during repair.
Laos had initially gotten the helicopters from Russia in the 1990s, with a contract signed for 12 Mil Mi-17s in 1996 and delivered over the next few years.
Russia and Laos have been discussing the possibility of new repair arrangements for a while now. At the Dubai Airshow last year, RIA Novosti deputy general director Alexander Scherbinin had said that the possibility of repairing two Lao Mil Mi-17s at Sevastopol repair plant was under discussion.
The Mil Mi-17 helicopter made headlines in Laos last year when one of them carrying 23 people – 19 passengers and four crew members – was declared missing after losing contact with air traffic control in the capital city of Vientiane.
Russia has after-sale maintenance helicopter contracts with other countries as well. With respect to Laos’ neighbor Vietnam, for instance, Moscow and Hanoi had even undertaken a joint venture to set up helicopter company HELITECHCO which was founded in 1994. HELITECHCO has since repaired more than 80 civil helicopters belonging to government and commercial operators from several Asian countries, including Vietnam, Laos, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Earlier this year, Russian Helicopters had said at the 2016 Singapore Airshow that it was performing a scheduled technical audit to check on the possibility of conducting Mi-8/17 military helicopter repairs there. Necessary boosts for operations were said to include more training for specialists as well as additional equipment and infrastructure.