Overpriced Afghanistan Helicopter Upgrades Are A US Taxpayer Handout For Contractors

Authored by James Durso, op-ed via TheHill.com,

Helicopter makers and the National Guard got nice a present for Christmas, but American taxpayers got a lump of coal...



The Department of Defense (DoD) has a plan to supply American-made helicopters to Afghanistan and it’s a great deal for almost everybody but the taxpayer, who is on the hook for over $800 million for the first batch of helicopters, and that’s just for starters.

DoD intends to wean the Afghan Air Force off the Russian Mil Mi-17 “Hip” transport helicopter, which has served the Afghans well, and replace it with the MD-530 “Cayuse Warrior,” a short range, lightly-armed scout helicopter, and the H-60 “Black Hawk,” a troop carrier.

The U.S. military was initially disposed to keep the Hip in service, but Congress demanded contracts for U.S. firms and forced the Pentagon to cancel plans to buy Russian helicopters, so DoD devised a plan to equip the Afghans with U.S. gear.

DoD returned to Congress with improbable news that an Mi-17 cost $20 million, while a refurbished H-60 could be had for only $6 million. The Pentagon also discounted the Hip’s significant cargo capacity, its ability to carry substantial armaments while ferrying troops or cargo, and its use for close air support.

But $20 million for an Mi-17? You don’t want to take those DoD guys with you when you go new car shopping. You can order a new Mi-17 from the maker, Kazan Helicopters, for $14-15 million “depending on extras and avionics.”

But the politics are first-class.

The helicopters supplied to the Afghans will come from the National Guard, which will get new helicopters from the Army, getting the governors and adjutants general behind the effort, in addition to congressional delegations from the states supplying the airframes, avionics, and engines. The only problem is the timing. It would take too long to get the National Guard H-60s to Afghanistan via the “certified pre-owned” route so DoD will fill the gap by buying more MD-530s, which are already in Afghanistan, and which the Afghans compare unfavorably to the Russian Mi-35 “Hind” gunship, and would struggle to maintain.

Actually, the Afghans won’t “struggle” to maintain the MD-530 as the U.S. is paying for a logistics support contract, just as it is paying to support their fleet of Mi-17s, C-130 and C-208 cargo aircraft, and A-29 attack aircraft. The struggling may come later as the contracts had no provision for training the Afghan mechanics, ensuring steady income for the contractors. And some of the maintenance occurs outside Afghanistan, delaying the return of the aircraft to active service.

The DoD Inspector General wrote that this will “prolong Afghan dependence.” But for the contractors, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The Afghans perform much of the maintenance on the Mi-17, and were steadily building their skills, but that’s also because of their prior experience with the aircraft not just U.S. doing. To its credit, the coalition forces recognized this deficiency and put training contracts in place, but why weren’t there training provisions in the original contracts?

And those contracts aren’t just stunting Afghan capabilities. Assuming many capable American technicians are lured to Afghanistan by high pay, our U.S.-based C-130 and MD-530 fleets may suffer safety and operational shortfalls. But if worse comes to worst in Afghanistan, at least the Taliban will inherit some well-maintained equipment.

So, on top of fighting a bloody terrorist insurgency, the Afghan Air Force will have to transition to two new aircraft, provided they can find the pilots, and in combat conditions, as there is no rear area in that benighted country.

The transition may require training in the U.S. which will take experienced Afghan pilots off the battlefield. And the transition-during-combat will likely lead to increased losses, hurting morale and straining an already undermanned cadre.

Afghans sent to the U.S. for training have a tendency to go AWOL or seek asylum. In fact, the first female Afghan helicopter pilot trained in the U.S. did just that, causing red faces all around. And Afghan pilots who decide to leave the military and are qualified on the Mi-17, MD-530 and H-60 will be attractive to companies such as offshore oil and gas helicopter operators who will appreciate the opportunity to poach them and continue the military's tradition of training everyone else’s pilots at taxpayer expense.

We’re here because Congress was angry at the Russians for working with people like Bashar Assad. The Pentagon responded but its options were limited. Instead of giving Russia a piece of the action and making it publicly accountable for something in Afghanistan, it has been incentivized to do what it did in Syria: bide its time, then act as the spoiler. If Congress wanted money in American pockets, it should have pressed for infrastructure or natural resources contracts where the risk was limited to the private sector and failure wouldn’t have the strategic penalty of a struggling Afghan Air Force.


Nature_Boy_Wooooo Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:17 Permalink

Everything government does is.


Labor unions fleece Americans of hard earned tax dollars daily. Lazy union shits replacing 30 year air conditioners every 10 years and upgrading appliances that don't need to be upgraded at 130% of the hourly rate of their non union counterparts, and they take 3x as long to do the job.


Just so Democrats can keep their cash cow unions donating to progressive causes who then donate it back to the Democrats. The big government machine...... Democrats spending tax payer money to fund union jobs who then donate the money back to Democrats. Your tax dollars are being used to fund Democrats.


nmewn ???ö? Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:46 Permalink

So, the drunken Andrew Cuomo has got himself in a bind...

"While his former top aide is the one facing a jury, Gov. Cuomo will be firmly on the hot seat as a blockbuster corruption trial gets underway Monday — one that experts say threatens to cripple a 2020 bid for the White House.

Joseph Percoco (Edit: Really? Joey "Greasy Palm" Percoco, in trouble wif da law? Say it ain't so Vito!)— a longtime Cuomo pal who the governor once likened to a brother — is charged with shaking down more than $315,000 in “pay-to-play” bribes from companies seeking millions of dollars worth of business with the state."

...his daddy Mario must be rolling in his grave with a horse head.

Well...there's always crazy Uncle Joe "Plugs" Biden...from Scranton ;-)


In reply to by ???ö?

dchang0 Nature_Boy_Wooooo Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:42 Permalink


The Democrats have their set of cronies (public sector unions, leftist "community organizers," green energy companies, et al), and the Republicans have their set of cronies (General Dynamics, Lockheed, et al).

It's all welfare payments to people who either don't work or whose jobs wouldn't exist except for gov't handouts.

In reply to by Nature_Boy_Wooooo

Nature_Boy_Wooooo dchang0 Mon, 01/22/2018 - 20:00 Permalink

Union membership is basically tax exempt status.


We need to overturn unfair legislation like the Davis Bacon Act that guarantee that 80% of the lucrative government contracts are guaranteed to go to labor unions. We need to eliminate unions from the Public sector.


It's insane when the people who work for a union wouldn't even hire their own union brothers at those wages. Like Little Cesar's Pizza says only an idiot would pay more for less....... American tax payers are the idiots.

In reply to by dchang0

Nature_Boy_Wooooo Justin Case Mon, 01/22/2018 - 20:42 Permalink

Union workers on average earn 130% of their non union counterparts. 

How the fuck do you thing the contractors pay their union labor?.....that is right the inflate their bid price. 

Why do unions not work in the private sector?.......that's right nobody will pay their outrageous wage demands except for the government.

Why do unions need to hide behind the Davis Bacon Act?......... That's right they could not win job bids without that 80% of government work.


That's a fact you government scab.

In reply to by Justin Case

TheBigCluB Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:17 Permalink

now you know what keeps the plates spinning in the economy..

without mic spending the system would crash and burn..

we are doomed..

we must have war or we all starve..

LetThemEatRand Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:18 Permalink

How about we learn from the past and stop arming populations of religious zealots in the ME with anything that will one day be used against us even though they are currently the enemy of our... Oh, fuck it.  There's money to be made by MIC so it's going to happen.

two hoots Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:24 Permalink

there is no end it, next all the African nations will be outfitted, by then, start all over.  Let's give war a chance.

Seriously, when one uses your equipment they need your parts and with that comes a dose of influence, foot in the door vs the other side.  It's doctrine.  Turkey is a little odd though, not your standard bird.

D-plorable Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:28 Permalink

This equipment will end up at the new border protection racket since syria confiscated all of the weapons that .gov supplied the "moderate rebels" with.

InnVestuhrr Mon, 01/22/2018 - 19:34 Permalink

70% of gummint spending is on entitlement programs for: proletariat vermin, invaders, and islamic cult worshipers, ie HUMAN BIOGARBAGE that only consumes and contributes NOTHING

So I am VERY happy that some tiny amount of money is going to defense contractors, who develop valuable technologies and offer good-paying jobs


than flushing the money down the  entitlement toilet.