DeLauro: No U.S. funds to train Afghans to fly Russian-made helicopters

The U.S. House of Representatives, with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro playing a lead role, has again made its objection clear to continued Pentagon purchases of helicopters from the Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport for the Afghan specialty mission wing.

The U.S. House has voted 333-93 in support of an amendment that builds on a prohibition on further business with Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms dealer. The amendment was sponsored by DeLauro, whose district includes Shelton, and U.S. Rep. James Moran, a fellow Democrat from Virginia.

The amendment was included with the fiscal year 2014 Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations bill.

Restricts use of budget money

DeLauro’s amendment, which received bipartisan support, prohibits money in the fiscal year 2014 DOD appropriations bill from being used by the DOD to train the Afghan special mission wing to operate or maintain Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters.

DeLauro also represents Stratford, home of Sikorsky Aircraft, a large manufacturer of helicopters primarily used for military purposes. Sikorsky Aircraft is a division of United Technologies Corp. and one of the state’s largest employers.

No U.S. funds to subsidize Russian firm

The DOD is currently purchasing 30 Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport, an arms dealer that also is arming the Assad regime in Syria. DeLauro has called the arms sale “deeply troubling” and “outrageous.”

“Time and again, the Defense Department has ignored Congress’s clear message that they need to stop purchasing helicopters from Rosoboronexport,” DeLauro said. “They point to the 30 years of experience the Afghans have with the Mi-17 helicopters, yet as the inspector general’s report shows, the Afghans lack the capacity to use them.”

She added, “U.S. taxpayer money should be spent on American-made systems, not subsidizing the Russian state arms dealer fueling the war in Syria.”

Can Afghan pilots fly the Mi-17s?

The DOD’s most recent contract with Rosoboronexport came just days after the U.S. House voted 423-0 on an amendment authored by DeLauro to strengthen the prohibition on the Pentagon doing business with the firm. That prohibition also is included in the fiscal year 2014 DOD appropriations bill.

And last month, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction issued a report recommending DOD suspend plans to purchase the Russian-made helicopters, according to a press release issued by DeLauro. The inspector general’s report called the deal highly imprudent, noting the Afghans do not have the capacity to use them, according to the DeLauro release.


Moran was sharply critical of the DOD’s plans, noting only a few Afghan pilots could fly the Russian helicopters. “The U.S. government should not be working with companies that supply arms to the murderous Syrian regime,” Moran said.

“The United States spent more than $550 million to purchase helicopters we now know only seven Afghan pilots are fully mission qualified to fly,” he said. “It is unacceptable to give the Russian Rosoboronexport firm one more dime of taxpayer funds.”

Shelton has two members of Congress

The city of Shelton is divided between the Third District, represented by DeLauro, and the Fourth District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

DeLauro lives in New Haven and was first elected to Congress in 1990.