Georgia is set to replace its Russian supplied helicopter fleet, Georgian defense minister Irakli Alasania confirmed last week. He said his country intends to replace the Russian made helicopters with ‘american helicopters’. Until the early 2000s Georgia relied almost exclusively on Russian suppleid arms, having 16 Mi-8 (HIP assault helicopters), 16 Mi-14 (Haze maritime search and rescue helicopters) and 12 Mi24 (Hind attack helicopters) in service. The trend changed when Tiblisi turned west, reaching out to join NATO. As part of this move, Georgia acquired unmanned aerial systems and air defense missiles from Israel, and received at least 12 Bell UH-1H helicopters from the USA and Turkey. Following the war with Russiia in 2008 Georgia has lost some of these helicopters (attacked on the ground). Some of these losses were covered by the delivery of more Hueys from the US. Meanwhile, the airworthiness of the remaining birds dropped, lacking consistent supply of spare parts and support from Russia.
“We have abandoned the Soviet helicopters. In 2014 we are going to withdraw Soviet and Russian military transport and attack helicopters, which the Georgian armed forces have, and to begin to develop a fleet of American helicopters,” the minister told the Azeri newspaper ‘Trend‘.
In 2009 Georgia received the first two UH-1H ‘Huey Plus’ from US military support. These helicopters, delivered from U.S. military surplus have been refurbished by Oregon U.S. based Northwest Helicopters with all components and upgraded -703 1800 SHP engine to zero time and includes new main and tail rotor blades. Performance options include the BLR Strake and Fast Fin Kit along with the advanced AFS Engine Filter System. fitted with an upgraded Night Vision Goggle compatible cockpit and modern avionics.
WHile Hueys are the type of helicopters the Georgians have go used to in the past years, Georgia may opt for other models. Alasania said they are negotiating helicopter sates with other suppliers as well, “We are also in negotiations with other countries. Such an opportunity came in France after my visit to this country. The maintenance of the fleet of the Soviet helicopters is very costly for the state. The purchase of spare parts for them is problematical, and often it is almost impossible to get that kind of service without corrupt deals. On this basis, we have adopted a tough but correct and logical solution,” the minister explained.