The Iraq defense ministry reported that Mil-28N attack helicopters received recently from Russia played an important part in the recent recapture of Fallujah and Ramadi from Islamic State or Daesh. Iraq is the first export customer for the Mi-28NE, having bought 15 of them as part of a package worth more than $1billion that was agreed in 2012, and that also included 28 Mi-35 attack helicopters.
Iraq received the first of 11 factory-standard Mi-28NEs in 2014. The remaining four are improved Mi-28NME night-fighting versions additionally equipped with a mast-mounted radar and dual flight controls, for two pilots in tandem seating (a configuration that is also available on the Mi-28UB operational trainer). Shipments of the Mi-28NME to Iraq began last year, ahead of any deliveries to the Russian armed forces. Algeria is a second export customer for the Mi-28NME, having ordered 42.
The factory-standard Mi-28NE comes with the OPS-28 Thor night-vision suite integrated by the Zverev’s Krasnogorsk Plant. It includes the UOMZ TOES-521 FLIR and Ramenskoye PKB automated thermal imaging sight “ATT.” The Thor enables the helicopter to engage targets at night at a maximum distance of 10 km. The Mi-28NME also carries an N-025E radar supplied by the Ryazan-based GRPZ (a member in KRET corporation). This radar has an advertised range of 20 km and the ability to track four targets simultaneously. Besides, the Mi-28NME comes with the advanced EW suite Vitebsk and higher-powered Klimov VK2500 engines in place of Ukrainian-built TV3-117s, which makes it comparable in combat lethality to the Boeing AH-64E Longbow.
The Russian armed forces have been using a few Mi-28NEs in Syria since April 2016, mostly in the Palmyra (Tadmor) region. One was lost on April 12, the cause having been traced to pilot error when flying at extremely low altitude at night.
The Iraqi air force has been using its Mi-28NEs against the Islamic State (Daesh) since March of this year. The Mi-28 is primarily intended to act against armor. In most instances of combat use in Syria and Iraq, these machines are employed on close air support missions, often against stationary targets such as artillery and infantry positions, and fortifications.
Night use has been rare, but both Russian and Iraqi defense ministries released cockpit videos in which Mi-28s hit moving targets in low-visibility conditions using Kolomna KBM 9M120 Ataka guided anti-tank missiles and 30-mm shells fired from the 2A42 turret-mounted cannon. The most recently released footage shows a radar-equipped Mi-28NME of the Iraqi air force shelling Daesh positions in the Fallujah area with 80-mm unguided rockets.