This one’s datelined April 1, but DefenseNews doesn’t strike me as an April Fools kind of site. It’s a bit hard to unravel from the story, but apparently the Pentagon is paying a U.S. contractor to buy and modify to spec 22 Russian MI-17 helicopters through a UAE-based sub-contractor, for delivery the Iraqi government. I’ll be checking in with our resident expert on the Russian arms industry, Richard Weitz, on this one. I, for one, can’t make any sense of it.
Update: Richard Weitz weighs in:
It might be an interoperability issue. Given that the Iraqis have purchased Soviet- and Russian-made helicopters in the past, most recently some Mi-17s in 2007, and have been trained to fly them, it might be cheaper simply to give them more of the same rather than purchase more expensive Western helicopters that would require expensive training programs.