Army 2019: Russian Helicopters Lands Orders for 108 Helicopters

 - July 3, 2019, 8:01 AM
The Mi-28NM is expected to gain a new, long-range attack missile. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

At the Army 2019 international military technical forum, the Russian defense ministry awarded 46 contracts worth in excess of one trillion roubles ($16 billion) to local industry. Respective documents were signed in the presence of President Vladimir Putin, who attended the event on June 27. They included the earlier announced orders for 78 Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighters and 98 Mil Mi-28NM attack helicopters. A contract was also placed for 10 Mi-8AMTSh-VN rotorcraft.

Shipments of the newly ordered helicopters will commence next year and be completed in 2021 for the Mi-8AMTSh-VN and 2027 for the Mi-28NM. Both rotorcraft types come with state-of-the-art mission equipment for night operations, more powerful Klimov VK2500M turboshaft engines, and new mission equipment and weaponry.

The Mi-8AMTSh-VN is a recent addition to the family of “Hip” armed transport rotorcraft. It differs from the baseline Mi-8AMTSh in having a reworked rotor system for improved hot-and-high performance. The tail rotor is now X-shaped, while the main rotor comes with reshaped blades made of composite materials. These and other improvements result in higher speeds and all-up weight increased to 13.5 tonnes.

The newer version features a weapon set reflecting Syrian war experience, including two forward-firing 12.7-mm machine guns fixed to additional attachment points. The avionics feature a glass cockpit with analog backup instruments and a digital autopilot. Mission equipment comes with a gyro-stabilized electro-optical system, a search projector light with infrared emitter, and external lights adjusted for use with night vision goggles worn by the pilots.

The Mi-8AMTSh-VN is the latest in a long line of armed variants of the Mi-8 "Hip." (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Survivability is increased through the installation of the LS3-8VN self-defense system with automatic detection of missile launches and the consequent activation of electronic countermeasures and release of flares and decoys. The pilot station and major onboard systems are protected with titanium plates, while the cabin floor and lower fuselage are shielded with removable Kevlar plates. “Having analyzed the recent combat experience, we have implemented a number of improvements to considerably increase the helicopter’s combat efficiency and survivability, with the focus on higher safety for both the crew and onboard troops,” said Russian Helicopters CEO Andrei Boginsky.

Unveiled last year, the Mi-28MN features reworked mission equipment enabling interaction with unmanned flying vehicles. Additionally, it gives the crew commander and weapons officer better situational awareness through easier access to flight and targeting information presented in an easy-to-understand format, according to the manufacturer. This is partly achieved through use of faster computers. Special attention has been given to extending detection ranges in all visibility conditions so as to enable the helicopter to effectively employ extended-range air-launched munitions.

“These and other design solutions have made the Mi-28MN a die-hard, lethal adversary,” said Boginsky. “Recently, we have handed over two such helicopters of an initial series to the defense ministry and we plan to add six more under the freshly signed contract in 2020.”

On the eve of Army 2019, the Zvezda TV channel controlled by the defense ministry released a video in which an experimental Mi-28 (side number 701) fires “a new extended-range air-launched munition.” Referred to as the “Lightweight Multipurpose Guided Missile,” with Russian acronym LMUR, as well as “Item 305,” it seems to be an air-launched version of the 9M123 antitank guided missile (ATGM), which was developed for the 9K123 Khrizantema self-propelled anti-tank combat vehicle (NATO codename AT-15 Springer) equipped with a millimeter-wave radar for missile guidance.

Reportedly, LMUR has a firing range of up to 25 km (15.5 miles) instead of 5-6 km for the ordinary Ataka on the current Mi-28s. For precision targeting at long distances, the Mi-28MN comes with the N-025 radar employing a mast-mounted antenna and a podded radar set carried on a weapons pylons. Mil chief designer Vitaly Sherbina described LMUR as Russia’s “first purposely developed missile with a built-in seeker developed especially for application from helicopters." In his words, this weapon will enable the Mi-28NM to hit targets at stand-off ranges, without the need to come close to the area of hostilities where hostile anti-aircraft defenses operate.