A Russian firm has delievered a Mi-171E non-combat helicopter to Pakistan, the second such chopper delivered to the country this year, indicating growing ties between Islamabad and Moscow. The Mi-171 is a civilian variant of the Mi-17 military cargo helicopter, which is already in service in the Pakistan Army. The second helicopter was ordered by Pakistan's restive Balochistan province for civilian use.
"I am confident the convertible Mi-171E handed over to the customer will perform decently when accomplishing any missions, whether in passenger and freight carriage or in medical, search and rescue operations," Chief Executive Officer of Russian Helicopters Andrei Boginsky was quoted as saying by the Russia's TASS news agency.
In the case of a medical emergency, the chopper can be used as an ambulance as it has the capacity to carry 14 stretchers if seats are replaced.
Russian Helicopters made the helicopter supply contract with the government of Balochistan province in December 2016. The Balochistan government and Russian Helicopters inked a supply contract worth $15.2 million in Jan 2017, the Tass report said.
The helicopter was built in the convertible option. The helicopter cabin can be converted from a freight one to a VIP cabin with 13 seats and a flight attendant at customer's option within the short period.
Mi-171E can carry up to 27 passengers and up to four tonnes of cargo inside the cabin or on the external suspension in its transport version. Three points for direct deployment provide quick landing of paratroopers and rescuers when the helicopter is hovering, it said. Russian Helicopters has sold Mi-171E helicopters to several countries, including China.
The Mi-17 is widely used across the world due to its reliability and ability to operate in all climates and could be used by the provincial government to transport cargo or passengers or as an emergency response aircraft.
India has also imported Mi- 17 from Russia. Mi-17V-5, supplied to India, are among the most technically advanced helicopters of the Mi-8/17 type. Russian Helicopters has delivered to India over 150 units of the Mi-17 type helicopters.
In March, for the first time, a high-level Russian military delegation had visited Pakistan's restive tribal region along the Afghan border to get first-hand information of the situation in the former strongholds of the militants.
Balochistan has also been facing insurgency by Baloch nationalists and Islamist militants.
Earlier this year, on February 13, a blast took place near the Saryab Bridge in Karachi killing two personnel of the bomb disposal squad and leaving 11 injured.
(With PTI inputs)