Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Uzbekistan to repair helicopters

Andrei Aleksandrov

Vertolety Rossii (Russian Helicopters) announced on Dec. 3 that Mi-8 and Mi-17 transport helicopters and Mi-24 assault helicopters would be repaired in the city of Chirchik, 70 miles from Tashkent. Uzbekistan is also hoping to secure contracts with NATO.

The company’s managers have signed a five-year deal with Uzrosavia, an Uzbek-Russian joint venture that owns the Chirchik aircraft repair facility that repaired early versions of the Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters during the Soviet Union’s campaign in Afghanistan. The plant still has equipment that can be used for repairs and the manufacture of replacement parts. The company has begun recruiting staff from among workers who have had experience servicing Mi helicopters.

“We hope to be able to work with Vertolety Rossii to repair helicopters not only for Uzbekistan, but also for neighbouring countries,” said Uzrosavia’s CEO Abid Mirzayev.

Economist Viktor Ivonin believes that the contract will be a boon for Uzbekistan, which suffers from chronic unemployment and has experienced an exodus of four million migrant workers. “What’s particularly important is the fact that it will provide jobs for highly-qualified specialists,” he said.

According to the Moscow Defence Brief, NATO forces in Afghanistan are actively seeking to attract Russian aviation companies such as Volga-Dniepr, which has transported 67,000 tonnes of freight in two years. About 400 Russian-made helicopters are owned by eastern European army units. Most of these are being used by military forces serving in Afghanistan. Russian helicopters are inexpensive and well-suited for use in mountainous regions and hot climates.

The managers of the Chirchik plant are hoping that the next step for the company will be to begin servicing aircraft belonging to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The Moscow Defence Brief has also reported that talks are already being held with the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency regarding the purchase or leasing of Russian helicopters for operations in Afghanistan.
“With a reliable repair base close by in Uzbekistan, it is virtually certain that Russian aircraft will be supplied to the coalition forces,” Ivonin said.


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