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Odd US-Russia helicopter deal hits new turbulence

Saturday - 12/7/2013, 9:21am  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The deal looked sketchy from the start.

To outfit Afghanistan's national security forces with new helicopters, the Pentagon turned to Moscow for dozens of Russian-made Mi-17 rotorcraft at a cost of more than $1 billion.

Senior military officials assured skeptical members of Congress they'd made the right call. They said a top-secret study confirmed the Mi-17 as the superior choice.

But in excerpts of the study obtained by The Associated Press, it turns out that an American chopper made by Boeing, the Chinook, is the most cost-effective helicopter for the Afghan Air Force.

Lawmakers are stunned and accuse the Pentagon of misleading them. And some wonder why the U.S. is buying a Russian aircraft in the first place.

The Pentagon has declined to comment, though it has defended the decision to buy Mi-17s in the past.

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