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Russia Improving its Mi-28 Attack Helicopter Fleet

Mi-28UB 1st flight

Mi-28UB, 1st flight
(click to view full)

December 16/19: Crash A Russian Mi-28 Attack Helicopter crashed on December 11, about 2.5km from Korenovsk airfield. Two crew members were killed. The helicopter was carrying out a training flight at that time. The aircraft had no ammunition on board. Mi-28 Night Hunter, known as Havoc is an attack helicopter analogous to the US Apache. The Night Hunter is a modern attack helicopter designed to carry out search and destroy operations against tanks, armored and un-armored vehicles, and enemy personnel in combat, as well as low-speed airborne targets. It can operate night and day, and in adverse weather conditions.

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Mi-28N with MMR (click to view full) 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 [youtube:v=3DnSyTfdcqQ] Aerobatics video 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 […]

Mi-28N w. Arbalets radar

Mi-28N with MMR
(click to view full)

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

[youtube:v=3DnSyTfdcqQ]

Aerobatics video

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.

AH-64D vs. Mi-28N comparison

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.

Rosvertol stated in a June 6/10 investors announcement that Algeria had expressed interest in up to 42 machines, and that became a contract in December 2013. Iraq has also purchased 15, and a Rostvertol report cited serious prospects in Egypt, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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

Mi-28UB 1st flight

Mi-28UB, 1st flight
(click to view full)

The Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant developed the Mi-28N Night Hunter, and they’ve been produced at the Rosvertol aviation plant since 2005.

December 16/19: Crash A Russian Mi-28 Attack Helicopter crashed on December 11, about 2.5km from Korenovsk airfield. Two crew members were killed. The helicopter was carrying out a training flight at that time. The aircraft had no ammunition on board. Mi-28 Night Hunter, known as Havoc is an attack helicopter analogous to the US Apache. The Night Hunter is a modern attack helicopter designed to carry out search and destroy operations against tanks, armored and un-armored vehicles, and enemy personnel in combat, as well as low-speed airborne targets. It can operate night and day, and in adverse weather conditions.

September 10/19: Six Inquiries Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) says it has received six separate inquiries on the Mi-28NE attack helicopter. Tass reports that these countries are from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and CSTO members-states. Six foreign customers have sent in requests for purchasing Russia’s Mi-28NE attack helicopter since 2015. Mi-28NE is an all-weather attack helicopter. Its main tasks are the elimination of armored vehicles and low-flying low-speed air targets, air reconnaissance and identification of targets for combat helicopters and planes. It is armed with guided and unguided missiles and a 30-mm gun.

January 24/19: Assembly in Kazakhstan Moscow and Astana agreed to launch the assembly of Mil Mi-8AMT and Mi-171 „Hip-H“ helicopters in Kazakhstan. The deal will see 45 kit versions of the helicopters delivered to Kazakhstan until 2025 for local assembly. The Kazakhstan Engineering NC of the Ministry of Defense and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan as well as Russian Helicopters JSC of Rostec State Corporation signed the contract. The technology of assembling heavy helicopters is being introduced in Kazakhstan for the first time ever. The production is organized without any public funding. The Mil Mi-8 is a medium twin-turbine helicopter used as a transport helicopter, an airborne command post, armed gunship, and reconnaissance platform.

October 24/17: Russian Helicopters confirmed on October 19 that its first batch of Mi-28UB helicopters will be ready for delivery to the Russian Ministry of Defense from next month. The firm added that the first units of the combat training helicopter have already completed factory tests. Chief Executive Officer of Russian Helicopters, Andrey Boginsky said the “emergence of training and combat version offers almost unlimited possibilities in terms of improving the pilots training system for Mi-28N. I’d like to note that the opportunity of learning not on the simulator but on a real combat helicopter is a considerable advantage of our military pilots compared to their colleagues from other countries.”

August 9/17: Russia is to test its Mi-28UB attack helicopter in Syria, according to Russian Helicopters CEO, Andrei Boginsky. The helicopter, which has a combined combat and training configuration of the Mi-28N Night Hunter and features dual controls for both crew members, will be used primarily to train new pilots but can also take part in combat operations. Russian Helicopters expects to deliver eight new Mi-28UB units to the Russian Aerospace Forces by the end of the year, with the first to be delivered to the 344th center of combat training and retraining center in Torzhok.

July 25/178: Russia has announced plans to start serial production of the upgraded Mi-28NM helicopter in 2018. A modernized variant of the Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopter, work on the new system began in 2009 and features a radically new locator providing an all-round visibility, a new dual control system and other equipment, as well as a high-precision weapon. The variant will be deployed to all front line units.

August 1/16: The latest version of the Mi-28NM has been spotted at the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, with pictures capturing the attack helicopter on its first hover. In development since 2008, a prototype first flew in 2015 with further tests to continue before delivery to the Russian Defense Ministry later this year. The improved version comes equipped with surveillance radar, an advanced suite of optical-electronic sensors mounted in the new nose turret, and a dual control system which allows the navigator-operator to operate the machine if required.

April 26/16: Russia has placed an order for 24 Mi-28UB attack and two 26 transport helicopters. Contracts were signed between Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Berisov and Director General of Russian Helicopters Alexander Mikheyev. The Mi-28 are to be the first procured to come with dual controls and improved flight crew ergonomics. Improvements to the helicopter come as the Russian military aims to improve combat training speeds for crews alongside increasing the helicopter’s operability, safety and combat capabilities.

June 12/14: Rostvertol report. Rosvertol’s 2013 annual report contains a number of interesting details regarding its orders. Deliveries to Russia are confirmed at 14 Mi-28Ns and 1 Mi-28UB. Evidence is conflicting, but the report also cites a 2013 prototype launch for the of Mi-28UB OP-1, and the helicopter and its and its mast mounted radar enclosure are photographed.

Iraq [foreign customer K-8] has its October 2012 order confirmed at 15 machines, and Algeria [foreign customer 012] is confirmed to have ordered 42 Mi-28NE attack helicopters on Dec 26/13. That Mi-28NE order makes them the type’s 2nd export customer after Iraq (15), but they are the largest. Other serious prospects include Egypt [customer 818], Turkmenistan [customer 795], and Uzbekistan [customer 860].

The report adds that Mi-28s have been having problems with increased vibration in the main gearbox. They decided to continue operations with an upgraded set of main gears in the 1st stage. Sources: Rostvertol PLC, “Annual Report ‘Rosvertol’, ZA2013 Year | LiveJournal bmpd [in Russian, incl. photos].

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].

Additional Readings

Background: Helicopter

* 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.

* DID (July 20/06) – Russia Commits to Multi-Year Buy of 67 Mi-28 Attack Helicopters

* DID – Baby Come Back: Iraq is Buying Russian Weapons Again. Including Mi-28NEs.

Competitors

* DID – Russia’s Ka-52 Alligator Scout-Attack Helicopters

* DID – AH-64E Apache Block III: The Once and Future Attack Helicopter

* DID – Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters. The T129 ATAK, formerly the A129 Mangusta.

* DID – Tiger, Tamed? Eurocopter’s New EC665 HAD Helicopters

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