Nato-Russia Council

Helicopter Trust Fund project producing results



Ten Afghan Air Force (AAF) Helicopter Maintenance Technicians have now been certified in helicopter repair after completing an extensive 90 day training course at Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant (NARP) in Russia. The second round of training has now already started, and in total a further 20 Afghan helicopter technicians will complete the training this year, developing much needed technical expertise for helicopter maintenance groups in Kabul, Kandahar and Shindand.

The NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund project is a pioneering project designed to develop the Afghan Air Force's maintenance capabilities and ability to use its helicopters effectively, by providing training, maintenance support material and tool kits, and spare parts from the Original Equipment Manufacturer.

The 10 NRC nations involved in the project have contributed a total of over USD 20 million, towards the training of Afghan maintenance technicians, and providing materials and spare parts for maintaining Afghanistan's fleet of Mi-17 helicopters. Contributions have been made in both funds and in kind materials and resources. Russia is providing over USD 3.3 million and its world renowned technical expertise from the Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant. The NRC Executive Steering Committee and NATO Support Agency (NSPA formerly NAMSA) have been working with the Russian Federal Service on Military Technical Cooperation and OBORONPROM Company to organise and implement the training.

Afghan helicopter engineers being trained on maintenance at Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant


In June, NSPA and NRC Executive Steering Committee representatives visited Novosibirsk to assess the training, interacting with the Afghan technicians as well as Russian officials and trainers . They were impressed with the quality and flexibility of the training provided by the Russian trainers, who have carefully adapted the training to suit the Afghan technicians' requirements for more theory, given the developed practical skills they already possess.

Speaking to an NRC representative, the leader of the group of Afghan technicians expressed his satisfaction with the training, mentoring and support provided by the Russian trainers and his appreciation of the NRC's support, noting that the instruction would provide significant benefit to the Afghan Air Force and their maintenance of the Mi-17 helicopters.

The Russian trainers in Novosibirsk also remarked on the quality of Afghan Air Force maintenance technicians, who had been selected based on their extensive practical experience.

The NRC is also planning to provide future courses designed to 'train the trainers' and providing training materials translated into the Dari Language to be used by the Afghan Air Force maintenance groups. Three of the certified trainees from the first round of training will be identified as suitable to become trainers themselves. Croatia will provide the 'train the trainer' courses. All these aspects will contribute to enable the Afghan Air Force to develop local training capabilities for the longer term.

Afghan helicopter engineers being trained on maintenance at Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant

The success of the project so far highlights the effectiveness of practical cooperation through the NRC to address the mutual security interests of its members. The significant contributions made by NRC nations to this is also a clear signal of their commitment to supporting Afghanistan as they take increasingly responsibility for their own security.

Security in Afghanistan is the primary goal of the project.

The Afghan Air Force's fleet of Russian made Mi-17 helicopters are vital to develop and maintain stability and security in Afghanistan. The Mi-17 helicopters are used for a wide variety of missions, including maintaining and resupplying isolated security posts. For example in places like the Kunar Valley where there is a history of insurgent activity, as well as for humanitarian and administrative missions - as they were used during elections. With this in mind, the significance of projects such as this NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund cannot be underestimated. Particularly as transition progresses towards 2014, the Afghan Air Force needs to expand helicopter maintenance capabilities to enhance their self-sufficiency.

Germany is 'Lead Nation' for this NRC project and has responsibility for overseeing the work of NSPA in implementing it. The German representative in the NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund's Executive Steering Committee said: we are very happy that this project has got off to such a strong start. We are particularly pleased with the training of helicopter technicians at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant. It is a great example of how practical cooperation in the NATO-Russia Council can bring real results - in this case a significant contribution to Afghanistan's security.

Rahimi Abdul Majeed, a helicopter engineer from Afghanistan who participated in the NRC helicopter maitenance training in Novosibirsk, Russia, speaks about his experiences:

Every person has many things to do in life, feeding and bringing up his family, so he has to work. Now I am aviation technician, so I work as technician for our Afghan Air Force. I found out about the NRC helicopter maintenance training course through my educational institution, which told us about this opportunity two or three months before the course was due to start. While working at my normal task of aircraft maintenance, I was also always in the institution, and in fact had taken  a class designed for teachers and translators together with a Mongolian group at the institution. I think it was due to my active participation in areas such as these that our educational establishment decided to send me on the NRC course.

In terms of the helicopter maintenance training in Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant, everything was right for us. And since I returned to Afghanistan I have been able to put the skills I learnt into practice. Also, I work in an educational institution and so will teach what I learnt in Novosibirsk to other technicians. Helicopters are very useful in the work of the Afghan Air Force towards security in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is a mountainous country.