Arch-rivals US and Russia do not get many opportunities to use & test each other’s military equipment. However, an uncommon incident was sighted on US soil earlier this year when the Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopter was spotted in North California.
It was sometime in May when Dan Moore, a member of the Civil Air Patrol, had unusual visits by not one but two mysterious helicopters in his farm in North Carolina.
First, a Russia-made Mi-17 Hip-type helicopter made an emergency landing, and later, a Bell 407 helicopter arrived at the location carrying the required replacement parts.
“I received a call from my neighbor saying, ‘Hey, did you know there is a helicopter in your front yard?’ Moore said while describing the incident. “Wait, what? A helicopter? In my yard? I was confused, but also primed and ready to return the favor when I figured out somebody had made an emergency landing at my farm”, he was quoted as saying by the Air Facts Aviation Journal.
The Mi-17 helicopter involved in this incident had a tan and brown camouflage scheme. It also had a big section painted in black on the right side of the fuselage behind the exhaust for one of its two turboshaft engines. Moore also recorded a video of the helicopter which had landed on his farm.
Even though the photographs or the video do not clearly indicate any markings to identify the operator, the helicopter did exhibit a host of military functions such as a sensor ball turret under the right side of the cockpit along with supplemental armor panels which were present on both sides of the helicopter.
A large particle separator, which is useful for conducting operations in sandy or dusty environments, was fitted on the front of the helicopter’s two engine intakes. Its tail boom was covered in antennas, including a platter-type one typically associated with high-frequency satellite communications (SATCOM) systems.
The crew chief told Moore that the helicopter would need to stay on his property till it could get repaired. Soon enough, a Bell 407 arrived at the location with the required replacement parts which could get the helicopter back into action.
This helicopter was a dark grey one and had an uncanny similarity to the mysterious trio which was spotted flying over and around Los Angeles in January 2021.
The similarities included the same “O WING” or “egg-beater” type ultra-high-frequency (UHF) SATCOM antenna on the tail boom and a pair of blade-type antennas under the forward fuselage.
These types of antennas are used for the transmission of high-frequency radio signals. The helicopter also had high landing skids, commonly found on choppers used by law enforcement agencies or the military.
The Bell 407 unloaded its cargo and left almost simultaneously. The Mi-17 was repaired and left for its destination the following morning. According to Moore, the crew did not state the organization to which the helicopter belonged. “These guys were all former military…it was all very hush-hush”, he said.
Who Was Operating Mi-17?
When the Bell 407 helicopters were spotted flying over Los Angeles, TheDrive news portal speculated that the operator could be the Aviation Technology Office (ATO), a highly secretive unit of the US Army. It is very likely that the Mi-17 involved in this incident is also operated by the ATO.
This speculation can be further backed by the fact that the ATO, previously known as Flight Concepts Division (FCD), shares strong ties with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA is also known to operate many foreign-made aircraft, including variants of the Mi-17.
"Wait, what? A helicopter? In my yard? I was confused, but also primed and ready to return the favor when I figured out somebody had made an emergency landing at my farm." https://t.co/zkhAumSBg0
— Air Facts Journal (@AirFacts) September 15, 2021
According to reports, the CIA acquired its first Mi-17 helicopters in 2001 for its mission “Jaw-Breaker” in Afghanistan as a response to the 9/11 terror attacks on the US.
Later in 2013, US officials signed a $572.2 million contract with Russia’s military export corporation Rosoboronexport for 30 Mi-17 helicopters, spare parts, test equipment, and engineering support.
According to the Army officials, the intended user of the Russian helicopters was Afghan National Security Forces Special Mission Wing, an aviation unit that supported counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and special operations missions.
The Russian Mi-17s had been constantly involved in all of the CIA’s activities in Afghanistan in the past two decades. Recently, Russian helicopters were spotted flying around Afghanistan as they helped Afghans as well as Americans to reach the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after the Taliban took over the country.
- Written by Kashish Tandon/EurAsian Times Desk
- Follow EurAsian Times on Google News