The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is planning to make a $772-million purchase of new aircraft that the Afghan Army does not have the capacity to operate, according to a new report from John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
SIGAR's latest report lists the purchase as one of its top concerns with the United States-lead reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. DoD plans to spend $554 million on 30 Mi-17 helicopters built by Russian Helicopters subsidiary Rosobornexport, and $218 million for 18 fixed-wing PC-12 aircraft from Pilatus.
Sopko indicates that the aircraft are intended for the Afghan Special Forces' Special Mission Wing (SMW), a unit that lacks "the capacity – in both personnel numbers and expertise – to operate and maintain the existing and planned SMW fleets." Afghanistan's lack of operational capability was discovered during a recent SIGAR audit of the planned aircraft purchase, which the Afghan Army would use for counterterrorism operations.
SIGAR is urging DoD to suspend the purchase, and also reports that lawmakers recently urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider a plan to purchase another set 48 Russian-built helicopters that the Afghan Army would not be able to properly maintain or operate.
Related: Military Procurement News