US military has plans to replace Afghanistan's old fleet of Russian helicopters with American-made aircraft UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, according to a new budget proposal.
This move is aimed at reducing the Afghan air force's decades-long reliance on Russian equipment, Reuters reported Monday.
According to the report, the US Defense Department is requesting funding to refurbish and update 53 older-model US military UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Afghans. The US defense department considers them as enough to replace the current fleet of Russian-designed Mi-17 helicopters.
Afghan air force has about 50 Mi-17 transport helicopters. The flying missions include troop and supply transport, medical evacuation and close air support.
Heavy fighting, hard conditions and maintenance problems have taken their toll on the fleet. Many times US military has faced legal barriers to provide new Mi-17s and parts amid deteriorating relations with Russia.
"The Department of Defence has determined that procuring US made helicopters is a more sustainable long-term solution to meet the requirements," spokesman Adam Stump was quoted as saying.
Among the reasons were "legal restrictions on spending DoD funds to maintain or buy more Russian helicopters".