BBC Russian Service 18.01.2011
How Russia supplies the NATO with helicopters in Afghanistan

Today, Russia is a key carrier of cargoes to Afghanistan, says Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia Vyacheslav Dzirkaln.

Natalia Tuzovskaya, a BBC Russian service correspondent, talks with Vyacheslav Dzirkaln about military-technical cooperation between Russia and the NATO.

BBC: Today, talks on Russian and the NATO military cooperation are held in Brussels. What is the agenda, and how is a dialogue being developed after the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon in last November?

Vyacheslav Dzirkaln: Key item on the agenda is to supply Russian helicopters for operations of the North Atlantic Alliance in Afghanistan. This is the area where we can energize and escalate cooperation.

Today, in Brussels, we conduct talks on setting up a Trust Fund. A number of interaction formats are discussed during the talks. Perhaps, today, we are at the stage of creating an optimized format of logistics support for operations of the Coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The format is discussed, under which Russia enters the Trust Fund with its capabilities to supply spare parts, carry out repairs, and train technical support staff. Many MI-8 and MI-17 helicopters of the Alliance and Afghan troops operate in Afghanistan.

The helicopter has proved its effective performance in conditions of high mountains and high dust content, very reliable, and highly effective. We were pleased to hear from our partners words of appreciation of this helicopter.

We are ready for such cooperation. We yet do not know the results of these discussions, but we understand one thing: Mil helicopters will continue to be in demand in operations in Afghanistan.

BBC: Do you discuss maintenance of available helicopters or leasing of new ones?

V.D.: There are two options. One is to provide service of operational vehicles that are in plenty. Another option is to procure new helicopters by both the North Atlantic alliance, and the United States of America, a key player on this theatre.

We are ready to pursue the second option, that is to supply these helicopters. I will not disclose a secret but we discuss with Americans possible supply of another 21 helicopters.

BBC: To what extent do Russian helicopters meet requirements of the Allies in technical terms?

V.D.: Inherent characteristics of these helicopters meet requirements. But there are also specific requirements to interaction support: radio communication equipment, friend or foe system, probably, additional elements supporting survivability and safety. I think there are no contradictions in this area, and we are ready to install supplementary equipment on request of our partners.

BBC: In terms of airlifting, it is known that Russia supplies Ruslan aircraft under lease agreements. Russian military experts voiced assumptions that Russia could build aircraft according to NATO standards. Do we speak about this scenario of cooperation?

V.D.: Today, we do not say that we are ready to build aircraft under Alliance standards. There are certain specific requirements to the military technology used in the Coalition troops and the Russian armed forces. When the Warsaw Treaty Organization broke up, the former member countries joined the NATO with their Soviet and Russian operational equipment. There were requirements according to NATO standardization, and we met them.

And today, the Alliance troops operate Russian equipment. We have no problems in this area.

Speaking about airlifting operations, today, the SALIS program (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution), under which the NATO leases heavy-duty transport aircraft, is very effective. Recently, this agreement has been extended until the end of 2011. Six AN-124 Ruslan aircraft operate under this program. Since 2006, about 1,700 flights were performed, and about 90 thousand tons of cargoes were carried under this project.

Those aircraft is capable of carrying specific bulky cargoes that cannot be carried by other aircraft. Therefore, this aircraft generates interest, and we are ready to continue such cooperation.
Another project “Airlift Capability Program” engaging US C-17 is designed to support the air bridge. But a key carrier in this region is Ruslan.

BBC: But will Russia build new Ruslan aircraft as since 2005, manufacture of these planes has been suspended?

V.D.: The program exists, and now developments are underway. First, decision was made to upgrade and improve AN-124 performance to continue their use, as there are no analogues of such planes in the world.

Works continue to commission IL-76 MF planes with enlarged fuselage, new engines, avionics, and so on.

BBC: How can you estimate prospects of cooperation in Afghanistan between Russia and the NATO?

V.D.: Unfortunately, we should acknowledge that the operation in Afghanistan is a long story. And I believe that during the next years, these planes will be in demand.

And even upon termination of a military phase of the operation, it will be necessary to carry out works to restore the national economy of Afghanistan, and that will require transportation of cargoes. The national transport infrastructure is poorly developed; therefore, I believe that aviation will remain the backbone of the transport system.

Date of publication: 05.04.2011




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