April 23, 2006:
Russia is buying another five Mi-24PN attack helicopters. This model has a single display through which the weapons operator can view TV or night vision (FLIR, forward-looking infrared radar) images. The sensors are mounted on a movable dome under the chin of the all-weather helicopter. This is an upgrade of the basic M-24 helicopter, with the first PN model delivered at the end of 2003. It's an expensive helicopter, but is useful for counter-terror operations in places like Chechnya. The army got 14 Mi24PNs in 2004, and most of these went to the Caucasus and Chechnya. The M-24PN carries a 23mm automatic cannon, 16 anti-tank missiles or up to 80 unguided rockets. Unlike most helicopter gunships, the Mi-24PN also has room in the back for eight infantrymen, or cargo.
There are over a thousand Mi-24s still in service. A new Mi-24PN costs less than half as much as the U.S. AH-64 Apache gunship. But since the Mi-24 is based on the Mi-8 transport helicopter, it is easier to maintain, and considered by users as a tough bird. For many customers, the Mi-24PN is adequate, and the additional capabilities of the AH-64 are seen as unneeded. Thus the Mi-24PN is getting a lot of sales from less wealthy customers who can't afford the AH-64, are too unsavory to qualify for AH-64 sales or are quite content with what the Russian gunship can do.