Lithuanian helicopters back in service after causing uproar over Russian repair plans
The Lithuanian Air Force's two Mi-8T helicopters that were at the center of a scandal over plans to repair them in Russia have been repaired and are back in service, the military said on Thursday.
"With the helicopters repaired, the Air Force can ensure the fulfillment of the Lithuanian Armed Forces' commitments to the nations taking part in NATO's air-policing mission, maintain the qualifications of helicopter pilots and partially meet other military training needs," Colonel Ramūnas Titenis, acting Air Force commander, said in a press release.
The repaired helicopters will be used for search and rescue operations, for transporting troops and for medical evacuation and other tasks.
Both Mi-8Ts will also be used during this year's major military exercises in Lithuania and will support other military units in daily military training.
The helicopters were repaired by Helisota, a Lithuanian helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul services provider, jointly with sub-contractors in Azerbaijan.
The company had initially planned to send the military helicopters to Russia for repairs, but the Foreign Ministry halted these plans at the last stage in 2016.
The scandal has cost Audronis Navickas his job as commander of the Lithuanian Air Force.
The Air Force currently has 12 helicopters, including three Dauphins and nine Mi-8Ts, but six of the latter aircraft are not in service at the moment. Three of them are planned to be repaired and the remaining three will be decommissioned.