[2.0] Hind In Foreign Service / Hind Upgrades / Mi-28 Havoc

v1.3.0 / chapter 2 of 2 / 01 jan 18 / greg goebel

* The Hind was exported to many foreign states and fought in many conflicts. Many Hinds remain in service with both foreign states and the various Soviet successor states, and a number of firms are providing upgrades to keep the machines effective. In the last days of the Soviet Union, the Mil organization tried to develop a new attack helicopter, the Mi-28 Havoc, that incorporated the lessons learned from the Hind. This chapter provides an outline of the Hind's use in foreign service and Soviet successor states, and also gives a description of the Mi-28.

Mil Hind gunship in aerial display

[2.3] MI-28 HAVOC


* The Hind-series gunships have been widely exported in specific export variants, with slightly downgraded avionics. The "Mi-25" was an export version of the Hind-D, while the "Mi-35" was similarly an export version of the Hind-E, and the "Mi-35P" was an export version of the Hind-F.

The Iraqis were early foreign operators of the Hind, obtaining them beginning in the late 1970s. It is unclear how many Hinds were purchased by Iraq, but the number was apparently about 60. Iraqi Hinds saw particularly heavy action during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980:1988. The gunships were used extensively for ground attack on Iranian troops, inflicting great slaughter and acquiring a fearsome reputation. They were also the first helicopters to engage in serious air-to-air combat with other helicopters, in the form of Iranian AH-1J SeaCobra gunships.

The Hind had been more or less inspired by the American Bell Cobra and Hind crews regarded the Cobra as their natural enemy. Although the Hind was faster and tougher, the Cobra was more agile. Soviet evaluations had demonstrated that in a contest between two helicopters the one that could turn more tightly was likely to win.

According to a story, the Cobra's advantage in maneuverability over the Hind had been demonstrated in the early 1980s. A Soviet Hind based in East Germany was flying along the border with West Germany, playing "cat" to a US Army Cobra flying on the other side of the border in the role of "mouse". The Cobra pilot was a "real pro", and the Hind pilot lost control trying to follow his maneuvers. The Soviet gunship went into the ground, killing its crew. This "kill" could be chalked up more to the Soviet pilot's fatal lack of judgement than to the American pilot's skill, and in fact the Iraqis demonstrated that the contest between Hind and Cobra was far from one-sided.

It might not have seemed so at first. In November 1980, not long after the beginning of the war with Iraq's invasion of Iran on 22 September 1980, two Iranian SeaCobras crept up on two Hinds and hit them with TOW wire-guided antitank missiles. One Hind went down immediately, the other was badly damaged and crashed before reaching base. The Iranians pulled off a repeat performance on 24 April 1981, destroying two Hinds without loss to themselves.

Then the Iraqis hit back, claiming the destruction of a SeaCobra on 14 September 1983; three SeaCobras on 5 February 1984; and three more on 25 February 1984. Things went quiet for a time, and then on 13 February 1986 each side lost a gunship. A few days later, on 16 February, a Hind shot down a SeaCobra, with a SeaCobra claiming a Hind in return on 18 February. The last engagement between the two types was on 22 May 1986, when the Hinds shot down a SeaCobra.

The score in the end was 10 kills on SeaCobras and 6 kills on Hinds. The relatively small numbers and the inevitable disputes over actual kill numbers makes it unclear if one gunship had a real technical superiority over the other. It appears that the outcome of the fights was dependent more on the tactical situation and pilot skill than the inherent merits of each machine. Iraqi Hinds also claimed a total of 43 kills against other Iranian helicopters, such as Agusta-Bell Hueys. One Hind even shot down an Iranian McDonnell F-4D Phantom jet fighter on 26 October 1982, though different sources give conflicting details of the incident.

After the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi Hinds were also used in punitive operations against rebellious Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. These attacks involved use of chemical agents against civilians, though it appears that the chemical agents were delivered by fixed-wing aircraft. Hinds also helped lead the way in the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, with a few of the gunships lost to ground fire.

When US-led Coalition forces took Kuwait back in early 1991, the Hinds kept a low profile. Saddam Hussein, expecting defeat, kept them in reserve to help maintain power after the conflict. One was captured and three destroyed by Coalition ground forces during the war.

* Hinds were obtained by India in numbers, with Indian machines seeing combat during the intervention in Sri Lanka in 1987:1989. They remain in service in India. Syria was another big user, having used them with success against Israeli armor during the fighting in south Lebanon in 1982, and still flying them during the uprising in Syria in the next century.

Warsaw Pact nations of course acquired them as well, users including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland. At last count, only Bulgaria and Poland were still flying the Hind, the others having retired or sold off their machines. Numbers of Hinds were also obtained by the Yugoslav successor states, while they are still flying with the Soviet successor states.

The Hind has figured prominently in the various "Wars of the Soviet Succession" that followed the collapse of the USSR, most prominently the Russian campaigns in Chechnya. The Chechnya fighting did much to illustrate the deterioration of the Russian Army and Hind operations were no exception, with gunships operating with feeble munitions loads due to limited stockpiles, suffering from running maintenance difficulties, and reports of Hinds causing "friendly fire" casualties due to poor aircrew training. A number of Russian Hinds were also lost in action.

Ukrainian Hinds and other helicopters served in less violent roles in support of United Nations peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia, with their machines neatly painted in UN white. UN commanders found the Ukrainian forces and their weapons a real asset to the mission.

Hind users in Africa have included Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. They saw plenty of action in the brushfire conflicts that have afflicted the continent. The only other Middle Eastern users besides Iraq and Syria were Cyprus and Yemen.

Users in Asia, besides India, have included Mongolia, North Korea, and Vietnam, with Vietnam using them in their war in Cambodia. Users in the New World included Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela, with Nicaragua using them in their fight with Contra insurgents in the 1980s.

* The US Army managed to obtain a few Hinds during the 1980s for evaluation and training, but in the main during that decade the US had to make do with Bell UH-1H Hueys dressed up, not at all convincingly, as Hind surrogates for training. These training Hueys were redesignated "JUH-1H".

The Army then signed a contract with Orlando Helicopter Airways (OHA) in Florida to build more convincing fake Hinds, apparently partly as targets. OHA took 15 old Sikorsky S-55 / H-19 piston-powered helicopters and did a surprisingly good job of converting them into something that looked like a Hind, even fitting them with five-blade rotors in place of their original three-blade rotors. They weren't perfect facsimiles by any means, but they resembled the real Hind well enough to be adequate for training purposes. The Army also found them highly reliable, a testimony to Sikorsky's tradition of sound engineering.

In the 1990s, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact has eliminated almost all barriers to purchase of Hinds except for coming up with the money, and the US Army has been able to train with real Hinds instead of surrogates -- more on this below.



* Given the large numbers of Hinds in service around the world, it is not surprising that many different upgrade programs are being implemented to improve the machine. The Hind is a tough, reliable, and capable rotorcraft, and should be able to remain in first-line service for many more years, as long as it is fitted with the latest avionics, sensors, weapons, and other improvements.

Of course, the Mil design organization and its corresponding manufacturing organization, now a commercial firm named "Rostvertol", have been promoting Hind upgrades. The primary upgrade variant is referred to as the "Mi-24M" for Russian service and "Mi-35M" for export. A prototype was flight-tested in 1999 and featured:

Possible antitank stores include the AT-6 Spiral, the newer laser-guided Ataka (AT-12) antitank missile, and the very recent laser-guided Vikhr (AT-16) antitank missile. The Igla AAM, the Russian answer to the American Stinger, can also be carried.

Although the initial prototype was fitted with standard Isotov TV3-117 turboshafts, two more prototypes entered the test program in 2001, with one fitted with new Klimov VK-2500 turboshafts with 1,790 kW (2,400 SHP) each. The VK-2500 was certified in early 2001.

The prototype was really only a baseline for possible Mi-35M configurations and the actual configuration of any production machines, if and when anybody orders it, will fit customer specifications. Mil and Rostvertol are offering a range of more modest upgrades under a bewildering and shifting series of definitions and designations.

The upgrade configuration favored by the Russian military at present is an update of the Mi-24P Hind-F, the "Mi-24PN", where the "N" stands for "night capability". It features fixed landing gear, a new day-night targeting system, an NVG-compatible partial glass cockpit, a countermeasures suite, and support for advanced missiles such as listed above. The Russian military has acquired Mi-24PNs as funds become available, accepting their first five upgrades in early 2004.

Mi-24PN upgrade

These machines were fitted out to a fairly rude and primitive night combat configuration, with a much more comprehensive update delivered to Russian forces from 2010. A number of foreign users have also obtained Mil / Rostvertol Hind upgrades.

The Ukraine's AVIAKON organization, which was established in Soviet days to provide maintenance support for Soviet-built helicopters, is also offering Hind upgrades, with Ukrainian forces updating their Hinds accordingly. AVIAKON upgrades include a menu of possible improvements, including engine upgrades, improved avionics, a countermeasures suite, helmet-mounted sights, night vision goggle-compatible cockpits, and so on, with avionics supplied by SAGEM of France. SAGEM has also offered Hind upgrades on their own.

* Many Hinds are in service in Eastern Europe, and in the spring of 2002, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, began discussions on a collaborative program to upgrade at least 105 Hinds. However, they were not able to come to a consensus; the effort went nowhere, and the Poles decided to go their own way.

The Poles had originally wanted to upgrade 40 machines, but now they are thinking of performing upgrades on an initial batch of 16, with later batches possibly bringing the full total up to 40. The goals of the upgrade program include a service-life extension program to keep the Hinds in service to 2015 to 2020, and equipment upgrades to provide full NATO interoperability plus night / all weather combat capability.

BAE Systems in the UK obtained a Hind-D from a warbird collector and implemented a full cockpit upgrade in hopes of getting a leg up on Hind upgrade contracts for Poland and other countries. They did run into difficulties with the effort; the Russians have been very touchy about "unauthorized" upgrade work on Hinds, citing their intellectual property rights. However, the Poles awarded BAE Systems a contract for two prototype upgrades in 2004. The Polish WZL-1 organization has also turned out a few more modest upgrades for the combat search and rescue role, with these machines receiving the appropriate designation of "Mi-24CSAR".

* Bulgaria is planning its own upgrade program for 18 Hinds, which will provide improvements including:

New weapons are not being planned at this time. Selection of a contractor to design and perform the upgrade has dragged out, and it is not clear if the contract has been awarded.

* The Indians began an upgrade program in 1998 for at least 24 of their Hinds, with the work being performed by the Tamam division of Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI). Tamam calls labels the upgrade package "Mission 24", apparently to emphasize night operation, and the package includes:

Of course, Tamam is also offering similar upgrades for other Hind users. Elbit of Israel is offering comparable upgrade packages, with Sri Lanka, Macedonia, and Georgia having taken the company up on the offer.

* Another company performing Hind upgrades is "Advanced Technologies & Engineering (ATE)" of South Africa. ATE provides a minimal "Super Hind Mark II" update of the Mi-35P with modestly improved targeting systems and other avionics, and a much more comprehensive Westernized "Super Hind Mark III" update with:

Incidentally, the new turret and sensors have been installed in a big grafted-on nose extension that makes the Hind look even uglier, if that were possible. Algeria has obtained the Super Hind Mark III, with the first of what is believed to be 40 upgraded machines delivered in 1999. Azerbaijan also obtained the upgrade from 2010, ATE collaborating with AVIAKON of Ukraine, the Azerbaijanis obtaining Ukrainian Luch Baryer anti-armor missiles for their Super Hinds.

ATE has also worked on an "Agile Hind", later "Super Hind Mark V", update, with new composite rotors, fixed landing gear, along with considerable replacement of internal systems and armor with more modern, effective, and lighter equivalents. Nobody has obtained it to date.


[2.3] MI-28 HAVOC

* The mixed cargo-gunship configuration of the Hind-series helicopters having proven no great benefit, the Mil bureau decided to follow up with an improved machine much more along the lines of Western helicopter gunships, the Mil "Mi-28 Havoc". Design work began in 1980, with the first of three prototypes performing its initial flight on 10 November 1982.

The Havoc has a general configuration similar to that of the US AH-64 Apache, but calling it an "Apachski" would be unfair, since it clearly differs in detail. It has a conventional main-tail rotor configuration; is powered by twin TV3-117KM turboshafts with 1,640 kW (2,200 SHP) each; and has fixed landing gear. The main rotor has four blades. While the first two prototypes were fitted with a three-blade tail rotor, the third has twin "scissors"-type two-bladed rotors.

The gunner and pilot have their own cockpits, with the pilot in the staggered-up back cockpit. The crew sit in shock-absorbing seats that can handle crash landings at up to 12 meters (40 feet) per second. The cockpit windows are plated with flat no-glint armor glass, and titanium and ceramic armor is used to protect the aircrew and vital rotorcraft systems. Systems are arranged so that the most critical are the least exposed, and redundancy is used to help ensure survivability. The machine has an escape system that blows off the rotors and inflates air bladders to protect the crew while they are bailing out.

Built-in armament consists of a turret with a single-barreled "2A42" 30-millimeter cannon. The turret can elevate 13 degrees, depress 40 degrees, and traverse 110 degrees from each side of the centerline. Twin 150-round ammunition boxes are mounted on the turret itself, to reduce the probability of jammed ammo feeds. The gun can be selected for a 300 round per minute rate of fire for surface targets, or a 900 round per minute rate of fire for air combat.

Each of the stub wings has two pylons, for a total of four. Each pylon has a carriage capability of 480 kilograms (1,058 pounds) and can carry a four-round launcher for AT-6 Spiral antitank missiles, an unguided rocket pod, or other stores. Sensor and targeting systems are fitted. Each wingtip has a chaff-flare dispenser, and engine exhaust infrared suppressors are fitted.

Mil Mi-28N Havoc

The Havoc has a small cargo compartment of sorts, its main rationale being to allow one helicopter to rescue the crew of another. It could almost certainly be used to carry ammunition reloads as well.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   main rotor diameter     17.2 meters         56 feet 5 inches
   tail rotor diameter     3.84 meters         12 feet 7 inches
   fuselage length         17.01 meters        55 feet 10 inches
   footprint length        21.13 meters        69 feet 4 inches
   height (tail rotor)     3.82 meters         12 feet 6 inches
   height (rotor head)     4.7 meters          15 feet 5 inches

   empty weight            8,095 kilograms     17,845 pounds
   max loaded weight       11,500 kilograms    23,355 pounds

   maximum speed           300 KPH             186 MPH / 162 KT
   service ceiling         5,800 meters        19,000 feet
   range                   470 kilometers      292 MI / 154 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

* Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Mi-28 remained in the wings for well over a decade. The post-Soviet Russian Army did have a requirement for a new gunship helicopter, but the Havoc lost that competition in 1994 to the Kamov Ka-50 "Hokum".

Mil didn't give up on the Mi-28, however. Even though the Hokum had "won" the competition, the Russian Army didn't have the funding to commit to production, making the win meaningless. If and when the Russian Army got funding, it was likely to be after a period of time that rendered the service's original specifications irrelevant, leading to a new competition.

Some observers believed the Hokum was the inferior choice in the first place, and that it only won through political lobbying efforts. A coaxial-rotor helicopter does provide good lift capability and is well-suited for shipboard operation, due to its small footprint and insensitivity to crosswinds. However, critics claim that the danger of collision between the coaxial rotor blades limits such a machine's maneuverability, a definite drawback in a helicopter gunship. In addition, damage to the rotor system that a conventional helicopter might survive will very likely lead to a rotor collision that will send a coaxial-rotor machine into the ground.

In any case, in 1994, the Russian Army announced that they had funded development of a night / all-weather attack version of the Havoc. In the spring of 1997, the Mil bureau publicly unveiled the prototype of the improved "Mi-28N Havoc-B", where "N" stood for "Nochoy (Night)". First flight of the Mi-28N prototype was on 14 November 1996. The Havoc-B prototype was a rebuild of the original Havoc prototype.

The Mi-28N features a daylight TV / FLIR turret embedded in the nose, and a mast-mounted millimeter-wave Kinzal-V or Arbalet targeting radar. Other improvements include an enhanced cockpit layout; slightly improved 30-millimeter cannon; modified rotor blades with swept tips; and uprated engines with 1,865 kW (2,500 SHP) each. The Russian military has been slow to move on with the program, but in 2003 senior officials announced that they hoped to obtain at least 50 Mil-28Ns.

Initial deliveries were in 2009; the first Mi-28N squadron was declared operational in 2010. Russian forces envision a fleet of 100 machines. Kenya has obtained 16 "Mi-28NE" export machines, while Iraq has obtained a total of 42 Mi-28NE machines -- the order also including 24 modernized Mi-35M Hind machines; Algeria and Venezuela have also acquired the Mi-28NE.

In 2013, Rostvertol introduced a dual-control trainer, the "Mi-28UB", with features such as a larger instructor's cockpit and canopy, plus new crashworthy seats. It is fully combat-capable. Algeria has obtained the dual-control variant, and the Russian Air Force ordered 24 of them, with initial deliveries in late 2017.

Photographs of a prototype of the modernized "Mi-28NM" were released in 2016, the new variant including:

Initial flight of the Mi-28NM was on 12 October 2016. It is scheduled to go into service in 2019.



* The US Army first got their hands on a Hind-D gunship in the mid-1980s, before the fall of the USSR. An Army helicopter pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Stayton, was assigned to figure out how to fly the thing, assisted only by a translation of the instruction manual. Stayton was impressed by the size of the beast -- it was three times heavier than a Cobra -- and also by its solid cockpit armor. The armor glass was so thick that it was almost as tough as armor plate, and the cockpit view was excellent. Experience with the machine showed that it was a very good example of Soviet design philosophy, being "tractor tough", much more reliable and easy to maintain under field conditions than any American helicopter.

Stayton was also impressed by the machine's idiosyncrasies. One was that the helicopter's APU had a tendency to blast out a gush of flame when it was fired up, which was startling but harmless. Another eccentricity was that the big wings on the Hind prevented it from hovering, at least for any length of time, because they blocked the rotor downdraft. Apparently the cut-down wings on variants such as the Mi-24PS are to permit a hover capability.

Stayton quickly learned to regard the Hind as a hybrid of a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. It was very fast but not maneuverable, and in fact in a banking turn the dropped wing lost lift, which tended to flip the helicopter over onto its back. Stayton had fixed-wing flight experience and was able to compensate the first time he ran into this difficulty by putting the nose down to build up speed, but this maneuver would not be possible in low-level "nap of earth" operations. Stayton judged the Hind's unusual flying characteristics as design tradeoffs, not design flaws. More Hinds were obtained for US Army service, operating as aggressor training machines, and Army pilots have praised it -- saying it is quiet, gives a very smooth ride, "like an old '62 Cadillac." Stayton felt it was more fun to fly than any other helicopter he ever got his hands on.

* Describing Soviet weapons is always tricky. The Soviets were big on secrecy and misinformation, sometimes to the point of lunacy, making for a trail both faint and muddy. The result was that building this document involved multiple rewrites of designations as I went from source to source. In addition, I leaned toward use of the Western "Hind" designations wherever possible, simply because they were a bit easier to keep straight than the Soviet / Russian designations. I ask forgiveness if this seems a bit disrespectful. Certainly the Russian name "Crocodile" seems far more fitting.

South African Hind upgrade

* As concerns copyrights and permissions for this document, all illustrations and images credited to me are public domain. I reserve all rights to my writings. However, if anyone does want to make use of my writings, just contact me, and we can chat about it. I'm lenient in giving permissions, usually on the basis of being properly credited.

* Sources include:

* Revision history:

   v1.0.0 / 01 oct 02 
   v1.1.0 / 01 apr 03 / Comments on upgrades, split into chapters.
   v1.1.1 / 01 apr 05 / General cleanup and update.
   v1.1.2 / 01 apr 07 / Review & polish.
   v1.1.3 / 01 apr 09 / Review & polish.
   v1.1.4 / 01 may 10 / Review & polish.
   v1.1.5 / 01 apr 12 / Review & polish.
   v1.1.6 / 01 mar 14 / Mi-28UB trainer.
   v1.2.0 / 01 feb 16 / Various updates.
   v1.3.0 / 01 jan 18 / Quick cleanup.