Warplanes: Iraq Gets The Russian AH-64

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July 7, 2014: The manufacturer of the Russian Mi-28N helicopter gunship recently confirmed that an Iraqi order for fifteen Mi-28Ns was being accelerated and that three had already been delivered by July 2nd. This speed is in the best interests of the manufacturer as well as Iraq as the Mi-28Ns would be immediately sent into combat against Islamic terrorists in northern and western Iraq. This would make the Mi-28N “combat tested” in a region where more export sales of the Mi-28N have been sought. Combat tested aircraft are always easier to sell.

The Mi-28N "Night Hunter" is an all-weather, night attack version of the 1980s era Mi-28A, with added FLIR (night vision sensor), night fighting optics, and a two man crew. The basic Mi-28 is an 11.6 ton helicopter that can carry 1.6 tons of rockets and missiles. The aircraft also has a 30mm cannon. The cockpit for the two man crew is armored and the helicopter has missile countermeasures (chaff and flares), GPS, head up display, laser designator, and other gadgets. The Mi-28N has a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour and a one way range of 1,100 kilometers. It can carry up to 16 anti-tank missiles (with a range of up to eight kilometers). The helicopter can also carry 80mm rockets, bombs, or fuel for additional range. The Mi-28 has been around in small quantities for two decades but the Mi-28N is the most advanced model, on par with the American AH-64D gunship (which is a little lighter).

What has already helped export sales is the decision by the Russian military to replace its 250 Mi-24 helicopter gunships with 300 Mi-28s. Russia had planned accomplish by 2015 but that is not going to happen as the manufacturer confirmed that only 14 Mi28Ns and one Mi-28UB (the trainer version) were delivered in 2013.

The Mi-28N is a much more complex aircraft than the Mi-24 and requires more skillful and better trained pilots. To deal with this problem the Russian Air Force also ordered 60 Mi-28UB helicopter trainers. The UB model has dual controls that enable an instructor to also control the helicopter (from the weapons systems operator’s seat). Each squadron will receive 4-6 of the UB model to help build and maintain pilot skills. The Mi-28UB solves the problem of quickly getting new pilots up to speed on how to handle this much more capable gunship.

The older Mi-24 helicopter gunship has been in service for over four decades and Russian Mi-24 pilots long asked for something more like the American AH-1 or AH-64. The Mi-24 is a twelve ton chopper based on the Mi-8/17 transport. The U.S. did the same thing with the AH-1, developing it from the UH-1 "Huey" in the 1960s. But rather than adopt the radical redesign seen in the AH-1 and AH-64 Apache, the Mi-24 could still carry troops or cargo in the back and was not as nimble as the AH-1. The Mi-28 looks more like the AH-64. That's because, by the end of the 1960s, the Russians realized that the AH-1 design was superior. For several years there was intense competition, to decide which of its two new helicopter gunship designs (the Ka-50 and Mi-28N) to make standard. The Mi-28N is a more capable helicopter, costing about the same as the earlier American AH-64A ($15 million each).

The first version of the Mi-28N was shown in 1996, although the manufacturer, Mil, wasn't ready to offer it for sale until 2004. The fact that the basic Mi-28 had been around for decades and was known to be reliable and effective made it an easy, and safe, choice for the Mi-24 replacement.

 

 


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