- Reaction score
Back in 2008, Canadian forces operating in Afghanistan realised they lacked medium size strategic lift helicopters. They decided to purchase CH-47D Chinook from the US. While the transaction was negotiated and pushed through, Ottawa decided to lease several Chinook from the USAF... Unfortunately, jumping through all the administrative hoops took time and the Canadian troops in Afghanistan needed a good suitable helo asap...
That is how, very very quietly, the Royal Canadian Air Force leased 4 Mi-17V5 from Russia in 2009. They were renamed CH-178 in the Canadian inventory... The 4 units were first exclusively flown by the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS), but soon enough, they began flying both combat and transport missions with all Canadian units in Afghanistan. The Hip was considered well suited for Afghanistan harsh climate, dust and high altitude operations. Both pilots and maintenance crews appreciated the Mi-17 as a robust and capable platform which was also cheaper to acquire and operate than the Chinook.
Back then, several US units also operated the Hip in Afghanistan and so did the Afghan Armed Forces. Hell, 78 countries operate the Hip within their respective Armed Forces!
However, when pictures of Canadian operated Russian choppers appeared in the press in 2010, the government was embarrassed. What bemused the public and the press was not really that the RCAF was flying Russian platforms: Everyone agreed the Mi-17 is a good helicopter. What was underscored was that Canadian troops had been sent to Afghanistan without the required hardware to fulfill their mission. Only after they were deployed did the government started scrambling resources to rectify the situation. And all the way through this process and even after a solution had been found, did both the Government and the RCAF try and hide facts from the public.
The Canadian government carried on refusing to discuss the matter, even after the press published several articles on the subject, accusing the Canadian procurement system of being dysfunctional. Nevertheless, the four Canadian CH-178/Mi-17V5 continued to operate in Afghanistan until 2011 after which the lease was terminated.
The cover up continues to this day: you won't find any mentions of those helicopters on the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron Wikipedia page or official website and it does not appear on the official history of this outfit and its listing of previously operated platforms...