TechColombia struggles with Mi-17 helicopter operations amid Russian sanctions

Colombia struggles with Mi‑17 helicopter operations amid Russian sanctions

Colombian Mi-17, illustrative photo
Colombian Mi-17, illustrative photo
Images source: © X, @COL_EJERCITO

10:06 AM EDT, March 17, 2024

In 2023, Colombia decided against transferring Mi-17 helicopters to the Ukrainian armed forces. Now, due to sanctions on Russia, the country finds itself unable to utilize these helicopters. Despite their age, these models have consistently demonstrated effectiveness in various scenarios.

The proposal to send Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine originated from the United States. The American government suggested swapping Soviet and Russian weapons in Colombia's possession for modern American military equipment under favorable contracts. Colombia, along with most South American nations, declined the offer - a decision that likely did not account for the subsequent challenges in maintaining its Mi-17 fleet.

According to a report on the Infodefensa portal, maintenance contracts for the Mi-17 had to be put on hold. The Colombian government's contractor is unable to receive payments due to Western sanctions against Russia, impacting the Swift payment system.
This situation has sparked considerable reaction, with politicians voicing their concerns. Ernesto Samper Pizano, a former Colombian President, called for an urgent resolution to these maintenance issues. Highlighting the crucial role of Mi-17 helicopters in troop transportation and disaster relief operations, he emphasized their importance on his X service profile.
Infodefensa noted that Colombia has around 20 Mi-17 helicopters, which were expected to be operational until 2026-2027. **Currently, however, only nine are in active service.**
Nine others are grounded, awaiting maintenance due to exceeding flight hours, and two others are damaged, needing extensive repairs - a process complicated by the sanctions.
The Mi-17, a medium transport helicopter, has seen widespread usage across the globe. Over the years, Russia has exported these helicopters to more than 60 countries, many of which continue to rely on them.
Powered by Klimov TV3-117MT engines, the Mi-17 can reach speeds of up to 155 miles per hour. With additional fuel tanks, its range extends to about 684 miles.
Its capacity allows for up to 4.5 tons of cargo, including approximately 3,307 lbs of armaments according to requirements. It can accommodate a three-person crew and carry 24 soldiers or 12 stretchers for injured transport.
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