AfghanCrash 20
File photo of Afghan Mi-17 helicopter.
(Photo: US Navy Photo by MC Bill Musta)

Nine victims are reported dead and an unreported number are injured following the collision of two Afghan Air Force Helicopters early on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in southern Helmand province in Afghanistan.

Reports in media outlets including the Voice of America indicate that the aircraft were Soviet-era Mi-17 twin-turbine helicopters. There are 96 Mi-17s in use by the Afghan Army aviation units, including 56 in support of Afghanistan’s Special Mission Wing (SMW) or “Triple Seven” unit.

The Afghan Triple Seven special operations aviation unit is, “Charged with supporting the counter-narcotics mission in Afghanistan since its inception but have expanded to include carrying Afghan commandos and operators from the elite General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU) into and out of combat for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations” according to a 2018 report by journalist Marty Skovland Jr.

AfghanCrash 10
File photo of Afghan forces evacuating a wounded soldier to an Mi-17 helicopter. (Photo: via LA Times)

Official sources in Helmand province reported that the two Mi-17 helicopters were conducting a MEDEVAC mission when they apparently collided in Nawa district Tuesday night. The area center was reported to be under an attack by Taliban insurgents at the time.

The crash, reported to be an accident and not the result of enemy action, comes as conflict in the area has escalated since Sunday when a significant Taliban offensive began near the provincial capital of Lashkargah and has since expanded into surrounding districts.

The Russian-built Mil Mi-17 helicopter, NATO reporting name “Hip”, is a medium capacity, utility helicopter made in numerous versions including armed gunships and tactical transports. The aircraft has a significant operational history with over 75 countries including emerging nations, many African countries and even the United States. It has proven to be a rugged, dependable and simple to operate aircraft well suited to austere environments and operations in forward areas.