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Soviets Send More Copters to Nicaragua

June 26, 1986|United Press International

WASHINGTON — The Soviet Union has increased its supplies of assault and gunship helicopters to Nicaragua in recent months and Soviet test pilots and technical advisers have been sent to the Central American country, the Pentagon said today.

Soviet MI-24 Hind D helicopter gunships, similar to the U.S. Army's Cobra, and MI-8 Hip choppers, akin to the U.S. Huey assault craft, have been sent to Nicaragua since 1981.

But Pentagon spokesman Robert Sims and other spokesmen said the total helicopter force in Nicaragua now numbers about 37--about 25 Hips and a dozen Hinds. Sims said 10 crates of Hips were offloaded in Nicaragua in the "last several weeks."

Further, Sims said the Soviets have provided helicopter test pilots and technicians to assemble the choppers "for the first time for the Sandinistas' helicopter fleet."

The Soviets, he said, "are assisting in the assembly" of the Hips.

Recent Confirmation

"It's only recently that we've been able to confirm that Soviets have been able to perform that role" in Nicaragua, he said.

Sims said he did not know the number of Soviet advisers in Nicaragua, nor was he able to say how the Nicaraguans had been able to assemble earlier shipments of Hinds and Hips.

The helicopters "have been used successfully against resistance forces," he said.

Sims made the disclosure less than 24 hours after the House voted to send $100 million in military and humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. (Story, Page 4.) Of the total, $70 million is for military assistance.

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