On Monday, 23rd September, the official handover of ten overhauled Mi-171Sh helicopters back to the Croatian Air Force took place at Pleso air base, near Zagreb. The ten-year maintenance was performed by the Aviation Technical Centre (ATC), with the Russian Helicopters holding being the main partner.
Two weeks ago, when the Croatian Mi-171Sh was featured in our ´Photo of the Week´ section, we´ve already mentioned about the currently undergoing overhaul of ten Croatian Air Force helicopters. The maintenance works were, in fact, performed by the companies authorised by the manufacturer and being a part of Russian Helicopters holding – Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and 810 Aircraft Repair Plant with their co-operators. Remarkably, the overhaul took place in Croatia, that way being the very first ´in-field repair´ of Mi-171 helicopters performed by the manufacturer, resulting in several new logistic challenges.
The 207 million kuna (30.6 million USD) worth contract was signed in 2017, as the result of the tender organized by the Croatian authorities. Apart from the Russian Helicopters, represented by the local ATC company, offers from Ukraine and Slovakia were received. One of the main arguments in favour of the choice of ATC and Russian Helicopters was the fact, that the manufacturer was the only company holding the complete documentation of the aircraft and having the practical experience in such works.
The official handover event was organized with the participation of Damir Krstičević, the Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia; Anvar Azimov, the Russian Ambassador to Croatia; Mirko Šundov, the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia; Mato Mikić, the Commander of Croatian Air Force and Igor Chechikov, Deputy Director General for Aftersales Service for the Russian Helicopters company.
During the ceremony, both Croatian and Russian officials emphasized their satisfaction the overhaul was performed on time and without any significant issues. Especially for the Russian Helicopters company, this was a valuable experience, as the maintenance works were performed outside their plants and, additionally, in country being the European Union and NATO member.
Although it was stressed by the Russian delegation that Mi-171Sh is currently one of the best helicopters in the world, regarding the reliability, performance and cost-effectiveness, this is rather unlikely for Croatia to buy more Russian-manufactured rotorcraft in the future. Croatia is indeed renewing its helicopter fleet now but focused on the US-made aircraft only. It looks that Mi-171Sh would be the only exception from this rule – the Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters remaining in service are planned to be replaced until 2025.
According to the Croatian Ministry of Defence, the Mi-171Sh helicopters are used primarily for humanitarian aid to civilian institutions, in search and rescue operations, emergency medical flights, the transport of organs for transplantation and putting out fires. Two aircraft were deployed to Kosovo, participating in NATO peace-keeping operation there. Before the overhaul, the Croatian Mi-171Sh rotorcrafts performed 1,714 medical flights, transferred 760 patients and took part in 13 search and rescue operations.
Sources: Croatian MoD, Russian Helicopters company