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Cambodia to buy Russian choppers

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
A Cambodian soldier takes pictures of Russian Mil Mi-171A2 helicopter during an airshow at a military airbase in Phnom Penh in November last year. AFP

Cambodia will be among the first buyers of a new generation of Russian-manufactured multi-purpose helicopters.

A press release recently issued by Rostec, the Russian state-owned defense conglomerate, said it will deliver 70 Ansat and Mi-171A2 helicopters worth $500 million to five countries in the Asia-Pacific region in the next three years.

Soft and hard contracts were signed with these countries, according to the press release.

Ansat is among the newest of Russian-made helicopters. While its military version has been around since the early 2000s, the civilian version only materialised around 2016 and has never been exported.

The Mi-171A2, meanwhile, is the latest version of the vintage Mi-8/17 helicopters, which are used by military and civilian operators in close to 100 countries.

China, according to the press release, will receive 20 Ansat helicopters for the Association of Disaster Medicine. The remaining 50 will be delivered to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Both models are manufactured by Russian Helicopters, which is among the many subsidiaries of Rostec. The basic version of this chopper costs from $5 million to $15 million.

The Russians are confident the deal is just the beginning and that they will find more buyers in the region.

The press release quoted Anatoly Serdyukov, Rostec’s Aviation Cluster Industrial Director, as saying that demand for civilian helicopters in the region could reach 420 over the next decade. “Southeast Asia is one of the world’s fastest-growing industrial and financial regions,” he noted.

It is not clear whether the Cambodian government or private entities will buy the choppers. The number and delivery date have not been specified either.

The Ansat and Mi-171A2 can be used for both military and civilian purposes, including transport, medical evacuation, light attack, search and rescue, and reconnaissance.

A large number of people, including military and private sector representatives, were at the Pochentong Airbase in Phnom Penh late last year to witness a demonstration flight of Ansat and Mi-171A2 helicopters. Flight demonstrations were also held in other parts of the region, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Asked for confirmation, General Chum Sucheat, spokesman of Cambodia’s Ministry of Defense, said he was not aware of the deal.

Khmer Times also tried to contact the Russian Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to confirm the deal but has yet to receive a reply as of press time.

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