It seems that with cutbacks in military budgets around the Western world due to the present economic crisis that military officials are relying more and more on Russian aircraft operators to provide lift capabilities for them. The result? Alleged safety issues affecting lives in Afghanistan.
For example, one Russian carrier - Vertikal-T - was the operator of the helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan on July 19th killing 16 civilians. This Russian carrier was removed from the UN's list of approved carriers over a year ago due to concerns over safety issues. The carrier rebutted the claims by the UN saying that the Russian air safety regulators recently renewed its commercial air carrier license. Faced with a shortage of air lift capacity to support their activities in Afghanistan UN forces are turning to cheap Eastern European and particularly Russian operators to ferry supplies and civilian contractors. Vertikal-T's reputation is as the "hot zone provider of choice," said Mark Galeotti, a military and organized crime expert at New York University. "If you want a pretty professional but slightly cowboyish outfit that doesn't mind flying into war zones, doesn't mind taking off from unsurfaced runways, then Vertikal-T now seems to be the front runner," he said. Other Russian carriers that NATO forces are employing have somewhat questionable business practices, some of which have been accused of ferrying arms from Russian arms dealers to African countries involved in conflicts. As a side benefit the Russian GRU, Russia's largest foreign intelligence agency, apparently has close links with many of these Russian carriers providing an extremely useful source of intelligence for the Russian military. War sure makes strange bedfellows, doesn't it? And with more and more defense department budget cuts on the horizon one wonders how much more business will be outsourced to our Russian friends. In the meantime I would suggest that if you have to go to Afghanistan stay off of these Russian air carrier aircraft. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 I am a history major. I believe that the past is prologue. The archives bear that out. Most major aircraft accidents are not acts of God. In our recommendations we try to take what we have learned and correct situations so it shouldn't happen again. — James Hall, NTSB, 1996