(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), in a Senate floor speech, again called on the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to stop purchasing Russian-made MI-17 helicopters on behalf of the Afghan military. DOD has already purchased nearly $1 billion in MI-17’s to help grow the Afghan military’s helicopter fleet from Russian state-owned company Rosobornexport, which also sells arms to Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian regime. Despite calls from Blumenthal and a bipartisan group of senators for DOD to stop these purchases, DOD continues to do business with Rosobornexport. A video of Blumenthal’s floor speech can be found here, and excerpts of his speech are below:
“Since 2005, the United States has been procuring MI-17's to build the capacity of the Afghan military and it's working toward a total fleet size of approximately 80 helicopters. This year, the army awarded another contract to purchase another 30 helicopters, with approximately 15 more to come per year to replace the aging helicopters that the Afghan military already has run into the ground and failed to maintain. That's right, the Afghan military has failed to maintain those helicopters we bought previously.
“The contract to award these helicopters was managed in a way to prevent any American helicopter companies from bidding on the work, even though the Department of Defense' own analysis in 2010 concluded that the made-in-America – and I’m quoting – ‘CH-47 Chinook helicopter is the most cost-effective, single-platform-type pleat for the afghan air force over a 20-year cycle.’
“Now, I acknowledge, I may be partial to helicopters made in Connecticut. The best helicopters in the world are made in Connecticut by the Sikorsky. H-92 troop transport helicopter and the H-60 should also be considered by the Department of Defense for this mission. But, at the end of the day, ‘made in the U.SA.’ ought to be the ruling principle – ‘made in the U.S.A.’ – American helicopters for the American military and American allies.
“I am working with my colleague, Senator Ayotte, on legislation to strengthen the contracting provisions that prohibit – quote – ‘contracting with the enemy.’ These purchases are, in effect, supporting enemy purchases. We can't walk away from a problem that we created. We can't walk away from the need for a transition. But there is a better way to get there. The answer is, very simply, buy American, buy American helicopters.”