Russia upgrades Mi-24 helicopter fleet

The Russian Defense Ministry began to upgrade the massive fleet of Mi-24 helicopter gunships. The Syrian experience prompted to equip them with night vision devices. Cockpits and sights will be upgraded for operations in the dark. It was initially planned to decommission Mi-24 and replace them by new helicopters, but perfect operation of Mi-24 in Syria changed the decision, the Izvestia daily writes.

Russia upgrades Mi 24 helicopter fleet  MI-24P-1M Demonstrator helicopter, displayed at MAKS 2019 (Picture source: Air Recognition)

The first upgraded helicopters will be supplied to the 17th army aviation brigade, Defense Ministry sources said. It was deployed over a year ago in Kamensk-Uralsk and operated a squadron of Mi-24. The rotorcraft will soon leave for modernization.

The helicopter will get new electronic equipment, sights and arms. The crew will fly with night vision goggles.

Mi-24 was accepted into service by the Soviet armed forces in early 1970s. It fought in numerous conflicts where Russian troops were engaged. The Warsaw Treaty was armed with it, as well as dozens of Asian, African and Latin American countries.

The Russian troops have been regularly receiving modern Mi-28N and Ka-52 helicopter gunships of late. Some time ago, there were plans to replace Mi-24 with them. However, the idea was dropped, as the helicopter properly performed in Syria. However, the war exposed drawbacks of the basic option, as it was difficult to engage it at night. Thus, on December 31, 2017 a Mi-24 hit a power transmission line at night close to Hama airfield. Two men died in the crash.

“Mi-24 is a very good platform,” former Deputy Defense Minister for armaments Colonel-General Anatoly Sitnov said. “It is necessary to change the avionics, install new radars, thermal-vision night sights and expand the range of weapons. The design and the body of the helicopter do not outdate. After the modernization, Mi-24 capabilities will be equal to Mi-28N and Ka-52. It will be twice cheaper than the production of a new helicopter,” he said.

Upgraded Mi-24 will effectively play the role performed by Mi-28N, destroy frontline targets and support ground troops, Sitnov believes. Both helicopters have strong armor and are very survivable.

Mi-24 has an advantage, as in contrast to Mi-28N it can carry up to eight men.

“Modernization is the right decision,” former Commander of the 4th air force and defense army Lieutenant-General Valery Gorbenko said. “The production of new rotorcraft takes time. Major financial costs are necessary to replace Mi-24 fleet. The helicopter performs properly, its design, glider and engine can operate for long. The sights, navigational equipment and arms have to be upgraded. Mi-24 will be able to fulfil all army aviation missions,” he said.

Mi-24 upgrade for night flights began with the Mi-24PN option. Only several such rotorcraft were produced. The experience was used to create an upgraded Mi-35M and new Mi-28N and Ka-52.

The whole cockpit will be upgraded for the pilot to operate in night vision goggles. Weaker device illumination will be installed and bulbs will have special light filters. Exterior equipment will be changed to prevent blinding the goggles and impeding a safe flight.

The experience of modern conflicts shows that night operations decrease the losses of helicopters. However, night flights demand proper technical equipment and well-trained pilots, the Izvestia said.

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