Brazil’s defense budget saw a steep rise in the late 2000s, a necessary step after years of neglect. One of its priorities was to select an attack helicopter – something the country has not previously fielded to its Army or Air Force. competitors reportedly included the Italo-Turkish AW-TAI A129 Mongoose, EADS’ Tiger, and Russia’s heavyweight Mi-35M, a modern variant of the Mi-24 Hind that became famous in Afghanistan. The Mi-24/35 is unique among dedicated attack helicopters in that it can carry a handful of troops, in addition to performing its offensive role.
The A129 and Mi-35M were the reported finalists, and November 2008 reports cited the Mi-35M4 as the winner of a contract for 12 “AH-2 Sabre” helicopters. It took until the end of 2014 for deliveries to be completed.
Contracts & Key Events
The AH-2 Sabres will be used in the Amazon region; and basing appears to revolve around Porto Velho in the western Amazon, near Bolivia’s northern border. They will operate in conjunction with Brazil’s Embraer land and ground surveillance jets (R-99A/P-99A) Super Tucanos, S-70 Pave Hawks, and other local assets. Major Amazon region neighbors include Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia; the region is a prime location for trans-national narco-terrorists and drug traffickers.
Dec 10/14: Deliveries. Brazil’s Air Force announced that an An 124 transport aircraft finally delivered the last 3 of their 12 AH-2 Sabre helicopters at the end of November. Squadron Poti, the 2nd squadron in the 8th aviation group, is now training pilots for these helos. Source FAB: “FAB completa frota de helicópteros de ataque”; “Esquadrão Poti capacita pilotos de AH-2 Sabre”.
April 10/13: RIA Novosti reports that Mi-35 deliveries will take even longer: fall 2013, for a 2008 order of just 12 machines. Russian FSMTC director Alexander Fomin confirmed that date at the LAAD 2013 defense exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.
Aug 29/12: Deliveries. Russia has delivered the 7th, 8th, and 9th Hind E attack helicopters to Brazil. Igor Korotchenko, head of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Global Arms Trade and will complete the Mi-35M contract by the end of the 2012. Which is fairly slow delivery, on a 2008 contract for 12. RIA Novosti.
April 15/11: Aviation Week reports that:
“The Mi-35M already has had some export successes. In 2006-2008, 10 rotorcraft were delivered to Venezuela, while in 2009-2010 Brazil received the first six of 12 aircraft ordered. Rostvertol already has assembled three more Mi-35Ms for Brazil, but their delivery is in limbo owing to the country’s defense budget cuts.”
April 17/10: Brazil’s FAB formally inducts the Mi-35 into service at BA Porto Velho. FAB [in Portuguese]
April 6/09: RIA Novosti reports that Russia will start deliveries of Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters to Brazil by the end of 2009. Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation:
“We have recently signed a contract to deliver 12 Mi-35 helicopters to Brazil. The first deliveries will start by the end of this year or the beginning of 2010″… The official said the contract was worth about $150 million.”
Nov 25/08: The $300 million contract was reportedly signed during Russian “President” Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit. The Brazilian newspaper “Folha de São Paulo” offers an interesting side note, claiming that the purchase was delayed because the Brazilian Air Force wanted the helicopters to be fitted with Elbit Systems’ avionics, manufactured and/or assembled by Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary AEL.
The Russians argue that this would be uneconomic for such a small batch of aircraft, but the choice would provide important commonality with avionics already present in the FAB’s Super Tucano light attack and surveillance turboprops, F-5BR fighters, and A-1M AMX light attack jets. News reports regarding the contract signing have not revealed whether this issue was addressed in the contract. Moscow Times | China’s Xinhua | Flight International.