Finally, in a somewhat unusual move by the National Army of Colombia, clear official statements were made regarding the current state of the Mi-17 helicopter fleet in service with the institution. This information circulated through the W Radio Colombia radio network, with journalist José David Rodríguez conducting an interview with Colonel Julián Rincón, Commander of the Army’s 32nd Aviation Brigade, the unit responsible for the use and maintenance of these Russian-origin aircraft.

Maintenance issues are expected to lead the entire fleet to a preservation state by 2026 or 2027. Practically, this implies ceasing their use and utilizing preservation means to prevent further deterioration of their components and rotors.

It was revealed that, out of the 20 units currently in the possession of the Colombian Army Aviation, only 9 are operational. The rest of the fleet is in preservation, as part of the COSIS maintenance program, aimed at keeping them in a safe airworthy state while awaiting a possible resolution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Regarding the Colombian Army’s personnel transport capability, Colonel Rincón stated: “The capacity will not be directly decimated because we are planning and adjusting.” Special plans have been devised to meet the needs through other aircraft, especially the UH-60 Black Hawk. Funds allocated for Mi-17 sustainment have been redirected to Black Hawk maintenance to keep the same level of readiness.

In conclusion, during an interview with W Radio, Colonel Rincón expressed: “Basically, Army aviation remains at the forefront of acquiring capabilities, training and training men to fulfil its mission and to support all the needs required by our National Army and our State, so we adjust the planning to the international or national reality, but we do not stop, we continue training pilots, training maintenance technicians, we continue modernising our aircraft when required and necessary; and hopefully we can visualise the replacement of the fleets that must leave service or we can start replacing fleets that due to obsolescence already require it”.

The Colonel emphasized that “only the manufacturer” can perform maintenance. However, it is known that in Peru, the main user of Russian helicopters in the region, maintenance work is being carried out through Helicentro Peru SAC, which by December 2023 had recorded “progress between 78% and 80% in the overhaul of four Mi-8MTV-1 helicopters of the Army Aviation and more than 45% in that of one Mi-8MTV-1, one Mi-17-1B and two Mi-171Sh Hip H of the Peruvian Air Force”. The Ministry of Defense must explore real maintenance alternatives available in the market but are currently ignored or unknown to officials.

On another note, given the political stance of the current Colombian Executive Power, the possibility of replacing these aircraft with ones of U.S. origin has been ruled out. This was discussed in reports on the Model 234 Chinook and Vertol 107-II by Zona Militar and in an interview with Douglas Dawson, Columbia Helicopters’ international sales chief for Latin America. With a lack of decision and a real study by responsible politicians, all that remains is to wait for this important aviation resource to become non-operational. Nonetheless, recognition should be given to the maintenance personnel and officers of Brigade 32 and the Army Aviation Command for their efforts in maintaining and seeking solutions amid difficulties.

*Photographs used for illustrative purposes.

You may also like: The logistics ship ‘General Artigas’ of the National Navy of Uruguay set sail towards Antarctica to carry out resupply tasks


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.