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India Delivers 4th Combat Helicopter to Afghanistan

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India Delivers 4th Combat Helicopter to Afghanistan

New Delhi has finally delivered the last of four combat helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.

India Delivers 4th Combat Helicopter to Afghanistan
Credit: US Air Force

India has finally delivered the last of four Mi-25 (Mi-24D) helicopter gunships to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) after a four months delay reportedly caused by missing spare parts, according to local media reports.

Indian diplomatic sources told The Economic Times that the helicopter was handed over to the Afghan military on November 26 days ahead of a security conference on Afghanistan hosted by the Indian government in Amritsar, India this weekend.

The two-day so-called Heart of Asia—Istanbul Process conference will be attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two are expected to discuss closer defense and security cooperation between the two countries.

As I noted elsewhere (See: “India: Delivery of 4th Combat Helicopter to Afghanistan Faces Delay”), in December 2015, ahead the Indian prime minister’s visit to Afghanistan, India transferred three Mi-25 (Mi-24D) helicopter gunships to the AAF– the first time India transferred lethal military equipment to Afghanistan.

However, the delivery of the last helicopter was delayed due to missing spare parts from Russia. I explained:

The AAF has been suffering from a lack of Russian spare parts for its fledgling fleet of five Mi-35s gunships, supplied by the Czech Republic in 2008, which has kept most of the helicopters grounded during this year’s fighting season. Western sanctions against Russia and the resulting inability of NATO countries to purchase Russian-made hardware for Afghanistan have aggravated the problem.

In August 2016, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, urged India to increase its military support of Afghanistan, particular in the field of combat aviation (See: ”US General Asks India for More Military Assistance in Afghanistan”).

“We need more aircraft, and we are looking at how we can meet that need,” the general said during a press conference. “The Afghan air force needs to expand. We are concerned about making it sustainable, so that they can maintain the aircraft, get their parts in time,” he added.

“[…]Due to sanctions on Russia, it’s difficult to acquire supplies of spare parts for Russian military platforms, because much of the money is given to Afghanistan by donors who have sanctions against Russia in place.”

Specifically referring to the Mi-25 (Mi-24D) — 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 — the general said that “the Afghans have asked for more of these helicopters. There is an immediate need for more. When these aircraft come in, they immediately get into the fight.”

Russia and Afghanistan have also been in talks over the acquisition of an unknown number of Mi-35 (likely the M or “Hind E” variant) helicopter gunships (See: “Russia to Sell Modern Attack Helicopters to Afghanistan”). The United States has recently announced that it will supply up to 53 older-model U.S. military UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Afghan.