There are a few small problems though: In addition to the Afgan military not being able to maintain its new Black Hawk helicopters, the Russian Helos that it is replacing outperform the Black Hawk by almost every metric:
A report from a top U.S. military watchdog has finally acknowledged that the UH-60A+ Black Hawks that the United States is supplying to the Afghan Air Force are less capable and harder to maintain than the Russian-made Mi-17 Hip helicopters they have now. The review raises concerns that this could limit Afghanistan’s ability to conduct operations across the country unless steps are taking to mitigate the loss of capability, something we at The War Zone have long warned could easily be the case.
“The transition [from Mi-17s to UH-60s] presents several challenges that have yet to be fully addressed,” the report says in a section dedicated to the issue. “Black Hawks do not have the lift capacity of Mi-17s.”
“They are unable to accommodate some of the larger cargo items the Mi-17s can carry, and in general, it takes almost two Black Hawks to carry the load of a single Mi-17,” the review continues. “Furthermore, unlike Mi-17s, Black Hawks cannot fly at high elevations and, as such, cannot operate in remote regions of Afghanistan where Mi-17s operate.”
“The Mi-17 is ‘much more conducive to the education level available in the general Afghan population than the UH-60As’ when it comes to maintenance,” the 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan (AETF-A), the U.S. Air Force’s top command for operations in Afghanistan, which also oversees advising the Afghan Air Force, said, according to the Pentagon Inspector General’s review. “The expectation is that the AAF will be almost entirely reliant on contractors for Black Hawk maintenance in the near- to mid-term.”
That reliance on contractors is a feature not a bug: This is more of the deferred compensation for general officers program that appears to be the raison d’être of the Pentagon these days.
Whoever made this decision will secure a well remunerated post military retirement sinecure with Sikorsky, one of its suppliers, or the contractors that the Afghans (actually us) are paying very well for support services.