Helicopter deal, at a glance...
Some answers to questions about how the U.S. ended up buying more than $1 billion in new helicopters from the Russian arms export agency that has supplied weapons to Syria’s military.
• Why Russia?
Defense Department officials have maintained that Afghanistan’s national security forces need heavy-duty helicopters capable of moving troops and supplies in rugged conditions, and that Russia’s Mi-17 is best suited for the mission.
• Why couldn’t an American-made helicopter do the job?
Turns out one actually could. A top-secret Pentagon study found the Chinook, a heavy-lift helicopter built by Boeing in Pennsylvania, was the most cost-effective option for the Afghans. Congressional critics of the Mi-17 contract said the Pentagon used the study to prove the necessity of buying Mi-17s and never mentioned the Chinook. The Pentagon declined to speak on the record about the study or detail its conclusions.
• How many members of Congress are opposed to buying Mi-17s?
A lot. From both political parties, too. In July, for example, more than 80 House members voiced their opposition to the contract with Rosoboronexport in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.