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Poland planning Mi-24 helicopters upgrade


The Polish military is planning to upgrade its Mi-24  gunships, according to local media outlets. Poland is reported to procure new helicopters under the Kruk (Raven) program and upgrade the existing fleet of the Mi-24 Cold War-era helicopters. "Requirements related to modernization of the Mi-24 gunships are being developed in parallel to the Kruk procedures," the Defence24.pl website says, adding that the Hinds will remain operational until the acquisition of new combat rotary-wing platforms at least.


Poland planning Mi 24 helicopters upgrade 001 Two Polish Army Mi-24W gunships
(Credit: Polish MoD)


The Polish Ministry of Defense (MoD) has already initiated the procurement of new attack helicopters. However, this process faces several legal and financial obstacles. Thus, the modernization of the Hinds remains a viable option. "The modernization of the Mi-24 attack helicopter is also being considered; the release issued by the MoD suggests that the General Command is currently analyzing options, regarding a Hind mid-life upgrade [MLU]," the Defence24.pl website says, citing a request sent to the MoD.

If the Polish military decides to conduct the MLU of the Mi-24 helicopters, it will certainly face the necessity to increase the anti-armor capability of the gunships. According to local sources, the Polish Mi-24s are armed with unguided rockets (probably, 80 mm S-8-type) and a 12.7 mm quadrupled heavy machinegun (HMG). Such an armament suite is not sufficient against modern threats, for instance, main battle tanks (MBT) or infantry fighting vehicles (IFV). The helicopter in the current configuration cannot engage moving targets effectively. The Polish Mi-24 rotorcraft are also fitted with legacy optical-electronic suites and engines.

It should be mentioned that Poland`s aerospace industry offers several upgrades of the Mi-24 rotary-wing platform. In 2016, the TDA company (a subsidiary of the Thales Group), Thales Polska (a subsidiary of Thales), Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ) and the Mesko enterprise signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the manufacturing of the IRS short-range guided induction rockets. The IRS rockets are integrated into the Teslon launch pod, which has from two to 22 cells (depending on the configuration). The Teslon 22 pod for the Mi-24 helicopters carries 22 IRS rockets. The manufacturers of this weapons claim that a Hind armed with the Teslon 22/IRS system can accurately engage targets at a distance of up to 5 km.

At the MSPO 2017 international defense show in Kielce, Poland, the WZL-1 (Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze Nr 1) aircraft repair plant (a subsidiary of the PGZ Group) unveiled the USPU chin-mounted turret armed with a single 12.7 mm WKM-B HMG (a copy of the Soviet NSV Utyos 12.7 mm HMG re-chambered for 12.7x99 STANAG-compatible cartridges). The WZL-1 plant also offers a comprehensive modernization of the Mi-24V and Mi-24D gunships. The helicopters upgraded by the enterprise receive new communication systems, updated transceivers, a new jamming station, a GPS navigation system, a flight data recorder unit and exhaust shields. The enterprise claims that the Hinds modernized by WZL-1 are suitable for night vision googles (NVG) in accordance with MIL-STD-3009.

At the same time, the plant does not fit the Mi-24 rotorcraft with guided missiles. Poland previously initiated a program to integrate the US-originated AGM-114 Hellfire ATGM on the Hind; however, it was canceled due to financial reasons. The baseline Mi-24V gunship is typically armed with four ready-to-launch 9M114 Shturm (AT-6 Spiral) ATGMs mounted on two twin launchers. South Africa`s Paramount Group offers its own missiles for the Hind. Several users of upgraded Mi-24s (for instance, Nigeria) have equipped their rotorcraft with European-originated weapons. Therefore, the Hind can be described as a tactically flexible platform.

It is noteworthy that Boeing and Bell Helicopter offer to Poland the AH-64E Apache Guardian and the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters to meet the requirements of the Kruk program. However, the deliveries of the US-originated items of military hardware are being conducted through the medium of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which has strict regulations on the financing and other procedures. The Kruk program seems to be incompatible with the abovementioned FMS regulations; therefore, the US offer may be declined. Thus, the MLU of the Mi-24 gunships seem to be the best option in terms of trade-off between cost and effectiveness.

According to the Military Balance 2017 analytical book issued by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Polish Air Force operated 28 Mi-24D/V helicopters as of early 2017.