Amid loud cries to create more U.S. jobs, Grumpy Editor finds there has been scant media coverage of last Friday’s news that the U.S. Army plans to award a “sole source” contract to a Russian firm for 21 Mi-17 Russian-produced helicopters to be used by Afghan military forces.
The order is slated through Russia’s state arms trader Rosoboronexport which, until last year, was under sanctions that prohibited the U.S. government from dealing with it following its transactions with Iran.
Left out are helicopter manufacturers in the U.S., including Boeing Co., Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and Robinson Helicopter Co.
The Russian firm’s sanctions were lifted last year as part of a White House push “to patch up relations with the Kremlin,” mentions The Wall Street Journal, which ran a story on the helicopter deal Friday.
The basic Mi-17, with a crew of three, is used for military, police and civilian purposes. In military use, it can carry up to 30 troops.
The latest action follows eyebrow raising by six members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation five months ago in writing to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on a U.S. Navy decision to purchase a similar quantity --- 21 --- of Russian-made helicopters, also for Afghan’s military.
They wrote: “Particularly in light of the great commitment the United States is making to Afghanistan, rather than procuring Russian helicopters with unclear reliability and cost, we believe it is only prudent to consider proposals from U.S. manufacturers, employing American workers, with a history of providing the Defense Department with the best equipment at the best value to the U.S. taxpayer."