Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nine NATO countries want to upgrade Russian helicopters




Slovakia, the Czech Republic and another seven NATO countries want to cooperate in the upgrading of the Russian Mi transport helicopters, according to the declaration their representatives signed in Bratislava Friday.

They pledged in the document to upgrade their helicopters to enable their use in NATO operations, including the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

The Czech Republic has assumed the leading role in the cooperation.

"The goal of the cooperation is to achieve the most effective use of the Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-171 helicopters and to improve the training of their crews," Czech Defence Minister Martin Bartak told journalists.

In ensues from the declaration that NATO has had a shortage of helicopters suitable for use in difficult conditions for a long time.

Czech Defence Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said that although many new NATO member states had enough helicopters, their deck handling systems required upgrading.

"The initiative is designed to resolve the problem of the shortage of helicopters in NATO and coordinate their upgrading on the NATO level," Cirtek said, adding that the initiative was preceded by the establishment of a financial fund.

The Czech Republic is the leading partner in the initiative. According to Bartak, the Czech Republic has experience with helicopter upgrading thanks to the state-controlled LOM Praha military repair company.

The company owned by the Defence Ministry specialises on overhaul of transport and combat helicopters.

"We have something to offer and it is not only LOM company," Bartak said.

LOM has recently completed the upgrading of five Mi-17 helicopters. Three of them are to be sent to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan at the turn of the year.

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