The Russian officials have said Moscow is prepared to supply the Afghan army with the gunship helicopters – Mi-35 attack choppers to combat terrorism.
President valdimir Putin’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has said the issue was shared during the summit in UFA attended by the Afghan officials, Russia’s semi-official news agency – Sputnik News reported.
Putin told his counter President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani that Moscow is prepared to work jointly with Afghanistan and United States to start work on agreements for the delivery of the attack helicopters to Afghan Air Force, Kabulov said.
He also added that Russia is prepared to review Afghanistan’s request for the supply of heavy and light weapons for the Afghan army.
The Afghan Air Force is currently going through reconstruction phase as the Afghan national security forces are engaged to curb the growing threats posed by the terrorist groups across the country.
The Afghan Air Force received the first six Armed MD-530s earlier this year with the NATO Train, Assist, Advise Command-Air and 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, saying that the armed MD-530s will increase the Afghan Air Force aerial fires capability.
Armed Mi-17s and MD-530s give the Afghan Air Force six times the number of armed aircraft for Fighting Season 2015 as compared to last fighting season, which only employed five Mi-35s.
The helicopters will be retrofitted with the Enhanced Mission Equipment Package (EMEP) in a bid to convert the trainers into light attack gunships.
The upgrade work will be done by MD Helicopters Inc., a major American aerospace manufacturing corporation and defense contractor, at its facility in Mesa, Arizona.
A spokesperson for the company has said the upgraded version of the helicopters will be returned to theatre in early 2016.
The source further added that the converted helicopters will join 12 armed MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters (known as ‘Jengi’ [Warrior] by the AAF) that were contracted by the US Army in October 2014.
The five training helicopters were flown out of Shindand Air Base in Herat Province (six were delivered, but one was lost to an improvised explosive device [IED] in 2013).
Pentagon awarded MD Helicopters Inc. a maximum $44.2 million firm-fixed-price contract last year to develop and provide an armament package for the MD-530F helicopters that were already supplied to the Afghan Air Force.
Around 17 of the Afghan Air Force’s MD-530F helicopter will be upgraded under the contract which is expected to be completed early next year.
The helicopters will be equipped with air-to-surface rockets in a bid to further boost the close air support capabilities of the air force.
The US army has awarded a contract worth $13.2 million to add the seven-tube M260 launcher for the 70mm (2.75 inch) rockets to MD-530Fs supplied by the United States to the Afghan Air Force, the IHS Janes defence weekly reported quoting US Department of Defense (DoD) last month.
MD-530F helicopters are designed for high altitude and/or hot weather operations, where thinner air costs helicopters some of their lift.