Czech Mi-171 taking part in the Gap Tallard multinational helicopter exercise sponsored by the European Defense Agency, March 2009. Photo by Alexander Drevet
NATO intends to establish a multi-national helicopter unit, to assist the smaller members of the alliance, primarily Eastern European countries that do not have the resources to sustain helicopter units to support of their own forces. The unit will be supported by nine NATO alliance countries. Created in February 2009 and led by the Czech Republic, the HIP Helicopter Task Force is responsible for the development of a multi-national transport helicopter program for NATO. The multi-national unit will deploy transport helicopters in-theatre through the collective support of other Allies. Czech Republic and Hungary, who already operate HIP type transport helicopters such as Russian made MI 8, MI 17 and MI 171, would benefit from the program, when required to set up a multi-national deployable operation.
The new initiative was endorsed in the recent NATO meeting in Bratislava by the Czech Republic, Albania, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia Spain, Turkey and the UK. The declaration provides the mandate to start mitigating critical utility helicopter shortfalls, particularly in the conduct of ISAF operations in Afghanistan. The assistance to be provided by the unit will support operational pre-deployment training; command and control capabilities; base support or financial aid. A parallel NATO program addresses other helicopter shortfalls with the UK-French Multinational Helicopter Initiative (MHI), providing multi-national resources to finance helicopter deployment-related activities.