Russia Improving its Mi-28 Attack Helicopter Fleet
In August 2012, Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev pledged that the state would buy 60 Mi-28UB attack and training helicopters by 2020. That would be good news for the VVS, as well as the Rosvertol plant at Rostov on Don.
Russia is slowly modernizing its military, and its attack helicopter force is one of the areas being given priority. New Ka-52 Alligator and Mi-28N Night Hunter machines are beginning to replace the VVS’ 240 or so old Mi-24 gunships, but training has been an issue for the nascent Mi-28 fleet.
The Mi-28 Attack Helicopter
Flight International’s World Air Forces 2013 places the VVS’ Mi-28N inventory at 51 machines, with another 19 on order. The new Mi-28UB model, introduced in 2013, includes an enlarged cockpit for the instructor, and a larger canopy for the pilot. It can be flown from either the pilot’s cockpit or the second seat, and it retains full attack helicopter functionality.
Implementation of Bondarev’s promise would give Russia 130 Mi-28s by 2020, alongside 140+ Ka-52s. That would more than replace the current Mi-24 Hind fleet, and Russia has also ordered 60+ modernized Mi-35M Hinds to help fill in the gaps.
The Mi-28N is most often compared to the American AH-64, as it shares the same basic heavily-armed attack helicopter layout. The specifications above illustrate some of the basic differences between the 2 machines, but the bigger differences relate to concept of employment, and are reflected in harder to see areas like onboard electronics.
Russia is the largest Mi-28 operator, with 70 machines delivered or on order. Flight International’s World Air Forces 2013 also lists 16 Mi-28s ordered by Kenya, with 5 delivered, and Iraq is reportedly in the process of buying about 30 Mi-28NEs. If a deal is done, the Iraqi helicopters’ configuration may serve as a proxy for assessing the state of the platform’s development.
A reported Venezuelan contract for 10 Mi-28NEs remains uncertain, and Rosvertol stated in a June 6/10 investors announcement that Algeria had expressed interest in up to 42 machines.
India trialed the Mi-28N against the AH-64D, and chose the American helicopter in 2011. Indian media reported that the AH-64D displayed better maneuverability, more multi-role capability, and better capacity to accept upgrades.
Contracts & Key Events
The Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant developed the Mi-28N Night Hunter, and they’ve been produced at the Rosvertol aviation plant since 2005.
Dec 25/13: Russian Helicopters JSC announces that:
"The Mi-28N Night Hunter combat helicopter, made by Russian Helicopters a subsidiary of Oboronprom and part of State Corporation Rostec, has officially entered into service with the Russian Defence Ministry under an order signed by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu."
This is a formality. The Russians have of course been flying them for several years now, and the Mi-28N has served as the mount for Russia's Golden Eagles (Berkuty) helicopter aerobatics team since 2012. Sources: Russian Helicopters, "Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopter enters into service with the Russian Defence Ministry".
Aug 10/13: Mi-28UB. Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev says that they intend to buy 60 Mi-28UB helicopters by 2020, with a dual training and attack role. The intent is "4-6 [Mi-28UB] helicopters for each unit that has Mi-28N in service," allowing in-unit training while retaining combat power. Source: RIA Novosti, "Russian Air Force to Get 60 Mi-28UB Helicopters by 2020".
Aug 9/13: 1st flight. The Mi-28UB training and attack helicopter conducts its official maiden demonstration flight at the Rostvertol subsidiary in Rostov-on-Don. That plant manufactures Mi-28NE and Mi-35M attack helicopters, as well as Mi-26T super-heavy transport helicopters. The Mi-28UB model is distinguished from the Mi-28N by its dual pilot controls, in order to allow for training.
The Mi-28UB's next destination will be the Zhukovsky airfield near Moscow, for its public unveiling during MAKS 2013. Source: Russian Helicopters JSC Aug 9/13 release.
Dec 26/12: Mi-28NM. A Russian air force (VVS) official says that draft tactical and technical specifications for a modernized Mi-28NM have passed preliminary approval by VVS General Command. A commission on modernization of the Mi-28N had been set up in 2009.
The question is what might be in that modernization. The VK-2500-02 engine could be switched for the VK-2500-03 used in the Ka-52K, which has slightly higher maximum power. There have been some external questions regarding the operational readiness of the type's Arbalets mast-mounted radar, which is seen very rarely on photos of deployed helicopters, so improvements in that area are another possibility. Another obvious improvement area would involve communications technologies, and there's always room for improving an attack helicopter's weapons array. It will be interesting to see what choices they make. Source: RIA.RU [in Russian].
Nov 15/12: Deliveries. Interfax-AVN reports that Russia's Western Military District received 20 Mi-28N helicopters this year, and expects about 20 more in 2013. Deliveries are clearly picking up. Source: Russian Helicopters JSC.
June 2012: Radar. Take-off magazine reports that the helicopter's Arbalets radar may have appeared in pictures for over 7 years, but it's still a work in progress:
"The mast-mounted radar being developed for the Mi-28N by the Ryazan State Instrument-Making Plant cleared a number of test hurdles this spring. In March, the radar's interdepartmental performance tests were completed... April 2013 saw the completion of the radar-equipped Mi-28N's preliminary trials in the Moscow Region and the release of the acceptance report recommending the radar's employment as part of production-standard helicopters of the type. The last hurdle remaining is the joint special flight tests of the helicopter equipped with the radar. Depending on the outcome of the tests, a decision will be made to launch the radar's production.... Concurrently, the radar's export version, designated as N025E, is being developed to equip the Mi-28NE export model..."
Feb 15/11: Grounded. The VVS reportedly grounds its Mi-28 fleet after a crash near Starvopol kills the pilot. Source: Washington Post [dead link].
- Russian Helicopters JSC - Mi-28N
- Take-off (June 2012) - New Mi-28N versions in the pipeline. Also deals with the state of the Arbalets radar.
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