Pentagon drops purchase of Russian helicopters

The Pentagon said Wednesday it is cancelling plans to buy additional helicopters from Rosoboronexport, a Russian company supplied Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military forces with weapons.

Rival Sikorsky had lobbied the Pentagon to abandon the Russian defense contractor.

So did members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, sending Defense Department Secretary Chuck Hagel letters opposing the Pentagon’s plan and taking to the floor of the House and Senate to condemn Rosoboronexport‘s contract no-bid contract with the Department of Defense.

“This wrong and wasteful contract should have been canceled a long time ago -– preventing taxpayer dollars from indirectly funding the sale of arms to the Assad regime for the slaughter of the Syrian people.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. “ I applaud DOD for correcting this wrong, and hope the agency buys American in the future.  We should buy American helicopters, period.”

The additional 15 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters were to be purchased next year at a cost of $345 million and then delivered to Afghanistan’s national security forces.

The Pentagon said it wanted to purchase the Russian helicopters because the logistics of obtaining parts or arranging repairs were easier if the helicopter came from one of Afghanistan’s neighbors.

“The idea that the United States Department of Defense would use American tax dollars to buy helicopters from a Russian company that remains a chief supplier to the murderous Assad regime in Syria is absolutely mind-blowing,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, also weighed in saying legislation she has sponsored over several years “made crystal clear to the Pentagon that they need to stop using American taxpayer dollars to subsidize the atrocities taking place in Syria.”