The Russian Air & Space Force (VKS) has taken delivery of its first two training versions of the Mi-28N attack helicopter. The pair of Mil Mi-28UBs was produced at the Rostvertol factory of Russian Helicopters in Rostov-upon-Don. According to the Russian defense ministry, they have been assigned to the Center of Combat Usage and Army Aviation Crew Re-training at Torzhok, in the Tver Region.
The Mi-28UB is based on the factory standard Mi-28N, 100 of which have been built for the VKS and exported to Iraq (15) and Algeria. Its development commenced seven years ago at the request of VKS’s Army Aviation, which wanted a special modification with extended crew training functionality. The Mil design house developed such a version to reduce training flight hours by two to three times.
The defense ministry awarded Russian Helicopters an initial order for the new version in April 2016. It calls for delivery of 24 Mi-28UBs in 2017-2018. More recently, it was reported that this year the manufacturer will provide six or eight examples, and then continue with a rate of 10 annually.
Even though the suffix (UB) stands for “Combat Trainer,” the Mi-28UB retains the fire power of the baseline version. Technically, the key difference is confined to dual flight controls employing hydraulic actuators. This enables the instructor pilot seated in the back to assume control if needed.
The baseline version provides flight controls only for the pilot, while the back-seater’s job is to navigate and manage the onboard systems. The introduction of dual flight controls has prompted other changes in the airframe and onboard systems. The front cabin has been enlarged, as has the rear pilot’s canopy. Both cockpits come with seats that have a higher dissipation of the kinetic energy to help the crew better withstand rough landings.
For initial tests and evaluation of the Mi-28UB, Mil used an Mi-28 airframe assembled in 2007: "Yellow 37" was reworked in 2012 and took to the air in August 2013. This machine won a positive assessment from the intended customer, and VKS commander Gen. Bondarev said the service would buy “from 40 to 60” such rotorcraft new from the factory. Every Mi-28N regiment should receive four-to-six Mi-28UBs, he added.
The prototype Mi-28 flew as long ago as 1982. Early versions did not meet the requirement for night operations, due to the poor performance of the onboard equipment. But in 2005, the Russian defense ministry ordered an initial batch of the Mi-28N version. After protracted operational trials, the VKS declared the Mi-28N—dubbed “Night Hunter”—operational in December 2013. It is available in different versions, with or without the N-025 radar coming with a mast-mounted radar antenna. Earlier this fall, Russian Helicopters reported the first shipment of the Mi-28NE helicopter with an improved self-protection system, believed to be the President-S.
Meanwhile, the Russian defense ministry has confirmed plans to procure the Mi-28MN, an improved version of the Mi-28N the design of which reflects combat experience in Syria.