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Eleven New MI-17 Hip Helicopters for Ukraine Coming From US

by Guy D. McCardle Apr 25, 2022
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Mi-17 helicopters with the Afghan Air Force's 2nd Wing at Multinational Base Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.  US Army photo, Gina Great.
Mi-17 helicopters with the Afghan Air Force's 2nd Wing at Multinational Base Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. US Army photo, Gina Great.

Hips Are on the Way

It’s been a little over one week since the US announced the most recent security package approved for Ukraine. It totals over $800 million in military aid aimed at helping the Ukrainians in their ongoing fight against Russian aggression.

This latest round of assistance includes eighteen 155 Howitzers (and 40,000 rounds of ammunition), AN/TPQ-36 counter artillery radar, and AN/MPQ-64 air surveillance systems.

To get troops and supplies from point A to point B, we’re sending over a hundred armored Humvees, 200 M113 armored personnel carriers (APC), and 11 Mi-17 helicopters. The NATO reporting name for these particular rotary winged aircraft is “Hip.” These additional Mi-17s will augment the five we sent them earlier this year.

Mi-17s are being sent to Ukraine from Mexico as well as the US. Image Credit:

Not Made in America

At this point, you may have noticed something. These are not American-made helicopters. Part of being a young soldier in the cold war days was learning to identify Soviet aircraft and tanks from NATO aircraft and tanks. It’s not very hard if you know what you are looking for. Soviet-designed equipment tends to be more rounded. Helicopters are particularly easy to identify: They look like oversized VW busses with multiple porthole windows, fixed, wheeled landing gear (instead of skids), and an odd number of rotor blades. The Mi-17 (as shown above) checks all of those boxes.

You may be thinking: “Guy, why are we here in ‘Murica sending the Ukrainians Soviet-designed and Rooskie built aircraft?” That’s a good question. The answer is: “Because we have some, and they already know how to fly them.” 

So, how and why did we end up with a bunch of Russian helicopters? The answer to that is simple; we bought them (from a Russian state-owned arms exporter) to give to the Afghan armed forces during our 20-year effort in that country. But, for whatever reason I’m not privy to, we didn’t give them all out.

When we purchased them, certain lawmakers were infuriated that we did not choose an American manufacturer. But, the aircraft worked well in the Afghan environment, were relatively inexpensive, and the Afghan pilots already knew how to fly them.

Fun Fact: US Army Special Forces in Afghanistan extensively used CIA-operated Mi-17s during the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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