Canada has been leasing Russian Mi-17 helicopters in Afghanistan, and doing so outside the normal procurement process.
Thomas E Ricks, in Foreign Policy Magazine, speculates that this is so that Canadian forces can be flown across the Pakistani frontier into the Frontier areas, without arousing special attention, as Pakistani forces use the same helicopter. ‘Starbuck’, a commenter, suggests that the Canadian military is leasing the Russian helicopters because they are training Afghan forces, who are more likely to be using Russian helicopters.
This more recent story from the CBC doesn’t mention the FATA possibility but focusses on why Canada doesn’t buy helicopters from Russia, rather than the more expensive ones from the USA.
This article in Canadian American Strategic Review suggests that the idea of leasing Russian helicopters had been around for several years, due to the availability of the helicopters, their low cost, and the proximity of the manufacturing plant and parts supply to Afghanistan. Mi-17 helicopters cost one fifth the price of alternate Cormorant helicopters, and one tenth the price of Chinooks.
This article reports the announcement of the earlier lease of Russian Mi-8 helicopters in 2008. These were commercially available Russian helicopters (the Mi-17 is an ‘export’ version of the Mi-8).
Incredibly, the original lease involved the use of Russian pilots some of whom had piloted helicopters during the Russion occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
It was reported in November, 2008, that the US forces in Afghanistan had purchased dozens of the Russian helicopters, from Rosoboronexport.