Procurement: For Old Friend Iraq, Russia Delivers


November 3, 2014: Responding to appeals from Iraq for more rapid delivery of military equipment Russia has, as of early November, delivered 12 of 28 Mi-35M armed transport helicopters and three of fifteen MI-28NA helicopter gunships. Some self-propelled rocket launchers were also sent early. Less urgently needed, but delivered early anyway, were some twin launchers for SA-16/18 anti-aircraft missiles (which were also delivered) and several of the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft vehicles. 

All this is part of a large order that was originally expected to take several years to deliver. In late 2012 Iraq agreed to buy $4.2 billion worth of Russian weapons and military equipment. The deal was later cancelled for several months because of corruption allegations but by early 2013 the deal was back on and that some of the major items, like 30 Mi-28NE attack helicopters and up to fifty Pantsir-S1 (SA-22) mobile anti-aircraft systems will be delivered before the end of 2013. Iraq favors Russian equipment for several reasons. There is the obvious one that the Russians are “corruption friendly”.  But Iraq has been using Russian weapons for decades and there are many Iraqis familiar with it. Most importantly Russian gear is simple to use and more tolerant of poor maintenance. While Western gear is safer to use and more reliable, it is also more expensive and requires more skilled operators and maintainers.

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. Sorties usually last two hours or so. 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 for sale until 2004.

The Mi-35 is the export version of the most recent version of the Mi-24 helicopter gunship. This is a twelve ton helicopter gunship that also has a cargo area that can hold up to eight people or four stretchers. The Mi-24/35 can carry rockets, missiles bombs, and automatic cannon. It is used by over thirty countries and has a pretty good reputation for reliability. The design is based on the earlier Mi-8 transport helicopter.

Also delivered were several TOS-1 mobile rocket launchers. These are armored 220mm rocket launchers mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. The 24 rocket armored box for the 220mm missiles replaces the turret. Max range of the 220mm missiles is 6,000 meters and these rockets can carry high explosive or FAE (Fuel Air Explosive) warheads. TOS-1 has a crew of three. For every two or three TOS-1s there is a TZM-T resupply vehicle that is similar to the TOS-1 but carries 24 rockets and 400 liters (100 gallons) of fuel with which to resupply a TOS-1, using an onboard crane. The TZM-T also has a crew of three.

The Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system entered service in 2008 after more than a decade in development. Pantsir-S1 Development began in the 1990s, but was sporadic for nearly a decade because there was no money. Meanwhile, several Arab nations have been persuaded to order over 200 Pantsir-S1 vehicles. Pantsir-S1 is a mobile system, each vehicle carries radar, two 30mm cannon, and twelve Tunguska missiles. The 90 kg (198 pound) missiles have a twenty kilometer range, the radar a 30 kilometer range. The missile can hit targets at up to 8,400 meters (26,000 feet). The 30mm cannon is effective up to 3,200 meters (10,000 feet). The vehicle can vary but the most common one carrying all this weighs 20 tons and has a crew of three. Each Pantsir-S1 vehicle costs about $15 million.

Iraq hopes to have the helicopters in action by the end of the year, along with the rocket launchers.





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