Iraq takes delivery of Russian-made helicopters

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Iraq has received the last two in an order of eight Russian-made multi-purpose helicopters which cost 156 million dollars, the US army said on Tuesday.

The purchase is Iraq's latest effort to bolster its armed forces capacity ahead of a complete withdrawal of US forces due by the end of next year, as the US military still provides for much of Iraq's transport and logistics.

The two Mi-171E helicopters were delivered to the Iraqi army's base at Taji, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Baghdad, on November 7, completing the order, the US army said in a statement.

"These Russian-made aircraft will be used to conduct a variety of missions, including counter-terrorism, airlift and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance," it said.

The US army said it issued the statement because the purchase was made with assistance from American military advisors.

The aircraft purchased from Russia were shipped to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, where they were fitted with upgrades including the latest in avionics equipment and weapons control systems, before reaching Taji, it said.

Iraq's multi-purpose helicopter fleet includes 16 Mi-17s as well as the eight Mi-171Es.

The Iraqi military was dismantled and disbanded shortly after the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, and it has been taking steps to rebuild ahead of next year's American pullout.

It has signed an order to take delivery of 140 American M1A1 Abrams tanks due to be completed at the end of next year. In September, Iraq inaugurated the first in a fleet of 15 high-speed US-built patrol boats.

© 2010 AFP

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