BAMAKO, ($1=604.50 CFA Franks) — The Russian government has donated two helicopters Mil Mi-17 armed gunship version of the Armed Forces of Mali, West Africa, learned BulgarianMilitary.com. The news was confirmed by the Mali government, announcing that the helicopters arrived in the country on March 30th and were received by Defense Minister Sadio Kamara in the capital, Bamako.
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“We have received combat helicopters, the latest radars, and many other materials needed to fight terrorism and extremism … the result of a sincere and long-standing partnership with Russia,” a government statement said.
Mali and Russia continue to build closer military ties. In addition to the two new helicopters received, Mali operates two Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters and low-capacity troop transport, and four Mil Mi-35M multi-role combat helicopters. Mali has ordered and is awaiting the delivery of another Mil Mi-35M helicopter. A reference in the World Air Forces directory 2022 shows that the Mali Air Force has only one combat aircraft and it is again Russian – Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft.
Mali, the West, Algeria, and Russia
Military analysts note that the donation and delivery of the two Mi-17s come at a time when the Mali government has expelled Western military forces that have been present in the African country for years. These processes began in Mali after the fall of the government in 2020.
For the past 16 months, anti-Western protests have been taking place in the capital, Bamako, often displaying Russian flags. Russia and, according to some sources, Algeria is said to have caused long-standing French influence in Mali to be significantly reduced and minimized.
Last but not least, as BulgarianMilitary.com also wrote, the Russian private military company Wagner is building serious ties with the new Malian government. The role of “security contractor”, which includes training Malian soldiers, has been heavily criticized by the West. Intelligence channels say Wagner’s presence in Mali is funded by Algeria.
Algeria is considered the future guarantor of Mali’s security. Algeria is said to be ready to ensure Mali’s air security if necessary, as Russia’s largest combat helicopter fleet in Africa is owned by it.
Mil Mi-17 helicopter
The Mil Mi-17 is a helicopter that dates back to the Soviet era and continues to this day. The Mi-17 is derived from another Soviet Mil Mi-8 helicopter. The first registered flight of the Mi-17 was in 1975, and two years later it entered service in the armed forces of the Soviet Union. Approximately 12,000 units of it have been produced.
Mil Mi-17 has 35 export versions, including those produced for private VIP customers, as well as those for Russia’s special forces. This helicopter is piloted by two pilots, but the crew also includes an engineer. It can carry up to 24 soldiers and loads up to 5,000 kg.
The helicopter is powered by two Klimov VK-2500PS-03 turboshaft engines providing 1,800 kW [2,400 hp] each for take-off or 2,000 kW [2,700 hp] emergency rating. The maximum flight speed they can reach is 280 km / h [170 mph, 150 kn], while the cruise speed is 260 km / h [160 mph, 140 kn]. With one refill of the fuel tank, they fly up to 800 km.
The military attack helicopters are armed with C-8 missiles and UPK-23-250 light machine guns. Some helicopters can be armed with anti-tank guides or precision-guided ammunition.
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