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Senator criticizes Pentagon plans to cut Black Hawks for AAF

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: A senator on the US Armed Services Committee has asked the Pentagon to explain why it has proposed yet another helicopter model for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) instead of the Black Hawks it has been sending for years.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., questioned what he saw as an “abrupt change in aviation procurement and unclear strategic justification” in a letter sent Thursday to the Pentagon and shared with Stars and Stripes.

The Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which makes Black Hawks, is headquartered in Connecticut.

The number of Black Hawks provided to the AAF will be capped at 53 instead of the 159 pledged in 2016, a report to Congress by the Defense Department Inspector General said.

“Reductions were made on the basis of a review of future operational requirements,” said the report released last week.

The report also said the U.S. plans to send an unknown number of CH-47 Chinook helicopters to an AAF elite unit to replace its aging Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters. The Black Hawk program was launched in 2017 to replace the Mi-17, Blumenthal noted.

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