After seven years of development and testing the latest version of the Russian Mi-28 helicopter gunship, the Mi-28NM is available for service. The upgrade includes lots of new electronics, which are generally lighter, more compact, more reliable and more capable than the stuff they replaced. This makes it easier for the weapons officer to find and hit targets. The pilot also has an easier time of it, especially when flying at night and in bad weather. There are mechanical upgrades as well, including a more effective rotor. All this increases max speed by about ten percent (340 kilometers an hour). First deliveries will go to the Russian Air Force. There may be an upgrade program for existing Mi-28Ns but no details were provided. Such an upgrade would be time-consuming and expensive because nearly all the electronics have to be removed so that most of them can be replaced.
The current 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). 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.
One reason for the NM version was the need for more reliability and ease-of-use than the N model provided. For example in August 2015 a Mi-28N helicopter gunship crashed at a Russian air show. One of the two crew survived (by ejecting) and reported that the cause was a hydraulics failure. This was the sixth crash of a Russian military aircraft in the last month. The other five aircraft could claim advanced age as a major factor. Russia is replacing its 250 Mi-24 helicopter gunships with 300 new Mi-28s. The Mi-28N is a much more complex aircraft than the Mi-24 and requires more skillful and better trained pilots. Russia has sold 14 Mi-28s to Iraq and 30 to Algeria. In early 2015 the first Mi-28s arrived in Iraq and saw a lot of combat before the end of the year.