The Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Vinay Kumar, handed over the the last two of four retrofitted Mi-24V attack helicopters from Belarus to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) at an air base in Kabul on October 15, according to the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
“Vinay Kumar, Indian Ambassador (…) handed over the 2nd pair of Mi-24V helicopters to Afg[han] Min[ister of] Def[ense] Asadullah Khalid at a ceremony today,” the Indian Embassy in Kabul tweeted yesterday.
Kumar noted in remarks at the induction ceremony that the new helicopters would ensure that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) maintain “a robust counter terrorism capability.”
Mi-24V are close-air support helicopters fitted with a YakB four-barreled, 12.7mm, built-in, flexibly mounted machine gun, as well as rocket and grenade launchers.
India delivered the first two Mi-24Vs in May earlier this year. The four new helicopter gunships are a replacement for four attack helicopters gifted by India to Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016.
The Indian government had delivered a total of four Mi-25 (Mi-24D) helicopters and three HAL Cheetah light utility helicopters to the AAF by the end of 2016.
All seven Indian-supplied helicopters, in addition to five Mi-35 helicopters supplied by the Czech Republic in 2008, however, have been grounded due to missing spare parts and technical problems.
To bridge the air power capability gap, Afghanistan, Belarus, and India signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding regarding the purchase of the four Mi-24Vs in 2018, with the Indian government covering all expenses related to the procurement.
As I wrote earlier this year:
It is unclear whether some of the Indian-supplied helicopters will be able to return to active duty during this year’s fighting season in Afghanistan.
The U.S. government has repeatedly requested Indian military assistance to the AAF as a result of the Ukraine crisis in 2014 and the resulting Western sanctions that, among other things, prohibit the purchase of Russian-made military hardware, including spare parts for the helicopters, by Western countries.
In response the Indian Ministry of Defense “dispatched a team of aviation experts to Kabul in 2016 to assess the needs of the AAF. The experts concluded that it would cost about $50 million to procure spare parts and make repairs on 11 grounded Mi-35 helicopters and seven military transport aircraft,” I explained last year.
The 11 helicopters were most likely part of larger Soviet arms deliveries to the then Socialist Afghan government during the 1980s when Moscow delivered over 100 helicopter gunships to the Afghan military.
Afghanistan, India, and Russia reportedly also concluded a maintenance and repair agreement for the new helicopters in 2018.