Russia: September 3, 2002


: Unnamed sources in the Russian forces have told the press that the helicopter force in Chechnya is operating "beyond its capabilities". The air group currently musters about 40 helicopters: 22 Mi-24s along with 18 Mi-8 and Mi-26 transports (only which about a dozen can be counted on at any given time). While there are enough gunships to cover combat missions and escort convoy demands, there are too few transports, since some of the Mi-8s not only have to move passengers and cargo, but are also tasked with special assignments (like inserting Spetsnaz teams).

Since the Second Chechen campaign began in August 1999, Army Aviation helicopter losses in Chechnya officially totaled 36. One reason for the losses might be the lack of crew-familiarity with their protective systems. When one Russian reporter asked a Mi-24 pilot at Khankala about the L166 optic-electronic protection "lantern" sticking right out the engines on his helicopter, he only waved his hand and said "Some crud, does not work but has nothing to do with the operation of the machine". Apparently, the optic-electronic defense systems were put out of operation a long time ago and the need to repair them (much less modernize) had not been a priority since the Afghanistan War. 

The source of the Russian-made "Igla" MANPADs remain a mystery, since any stolen from Federal armories would have Identify-Friend-or-Foe (IFF) systems that would severely decrease the chances of a hit. However, Russia has sold similar launchers to other countries that lacked the IFF systems and military investigators were analyzing export records to Arab states. 

Meanwhile, simple gunfire remains a viable option for the rebels. Overnight on 2 September, they opened small arms fire on a MI-8 doing a cargo mission. The crew returned fire, although none of them were hurt and the helicopter was undamaged. - Adam Geibel

By 3 September, Russian law-enforcement agencies had intelligence information that a 10-man rebel group led by "Suleiman" armed with at least two MANPADS was operating near the village of Dyshne-Vedeno. However, Federal flight operations continued at a brisk pace: on 2-3 September, MI-24s flew over 30 sorties to strike small rebel groups and covering supply convoys, while MI-8s flew seven surveillance missions. Using DNA technology, by 3 September the Russians had positively identified 103 bodies from the 19 August Mi-26 crash. - Adam Geibel


In Chechnya, Russian artillery fire accidentally killed seven Chechen policemen. 


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