ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Russia on Wednesday finalized a deal for the purchase of four Hind helicopter gunships, a number that is expected to grow.
However, beyond saying an agreement had been signed for four helicopters, local officials provided no further details.
The Ministry of Defence Production, which handles acquisition, did not return a request for comment on the agreement, such as a time frame for further deliveries or if they were specifically for counter-terrorism duties.
Both nations signed an agreement in November to cooperate on counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism issues, with the provision of defense equipment being made in this context.
According to Russia's TASS news agency, a draft contract for four Mi-35M 'Hind E' helicopters was given to Pakistan in June. Pakistan's Army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, made a trip to Moscow around the same time where it is believed the deal was agreed upon.
According to analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank, the Hind fulfills a longstanding requirement.
"The Pakistan Army has been looking to procure Mi-35 type helicopters for some time, in fact since early '90s. It is a very versatile helicopter and it meets the requirement for [counter-insurgency] operations in the northwest, since it is one of the very few armored assault helicopters. It can carry eight fully equipped special operations soldiers and it is armed to protect itself and suppress enemy ground fire," he said.
Efforts to acquire such helicopters increased in the post-2001 environment.
"Post 2001, the Pak Army pushed to purchase Mi-35 because it has a lot of common engineering features with Mi-17, which they have more than 60."
The deal has been pursued since 2009.
The number of helicopters agreed upon is far lower than expected, however. At Pakistan's biennial defense exhibition IDEAS held in Karachi in December, a representative from Russian Helicopters told Defense News that the number under discussion was "more than five."
Khan said Russia's current economic downturn has dictated the reduction in number for the time being.
"Initial requirement for Mi-35 was for 20 helicopters, which was supported with a line of credit provided by the Russians worth $2 billion," he said. "However, after the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU and the USA, this line of credit was not possible."
Consequently, Pakistan's "Ministry of Defense was recently allocated funds to purchase four or five with eventual purchase of 20," Khan said.
Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.