v1.1.0 / 2 of 2 / 01 apr 03 / greg goebel / public domain
* 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. However, the modern Russian state has not had the funds to put this machine into production, and it has so far not progressed beyond the prototype stage.
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.
* The Hind-series gunships have been widely exported in special export variants, with slightly downgraded avionics. The "Mi-25" is an export version of the Hind-D, while the "Mi-35" is similarly an export version of the Hind-E, and the "Mi-35P" is 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, with the number on the rough order of 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 HueyCobra 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 more be chalked up to the Soviet pilot's fatal stupidity 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 wired-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 unprotected civilians, though it is unclear if Hinds were used as chemical delivery platforms. 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. However, one was captured and three destroyed by Coalition ground forces, and a US Air Force F-15 strike fighter picked off one in flight with a laser-guided bomb.
* Hinds have participated in a large number of smaller wars all around the world:
Indian Hinds saw service during India's intervention in Sri Lanka in 1987:1989, performing attacks on Tamil Tiger rebels fighting against the Sri Lankan government. The Indians lost no Hinds in the operation, as the Tigers had no weapons that could deal with the Crocodile at the time.
The Hinds suffered a number of losses, including three that were captured by the French. The French evaluated their prizes thoroughly, then turned over one to the US and another to Britain. Most of the Hinds in Libyan hands were eventually grounded due to lack of spares, delivery of which was blocked by UN sanctions against Libya for terrorist activities.
By the early 1990s, outside powers had lost interest in supporting either side in the conflict. The fighting went on mindlessly, but as time went on the more sophisticated weapons supplied to both sides began to fall into disrepair, and such Hinds as have survived are generally grounded for lack of spares and maintenance.
The government found themselves steadily forced back, until they hired a South African mercenary outfit named "Executive Outcomes (EO)" to take charge. EO was very professional and promptly tipped the war back in the government's favor. The Belorussian helicopter crews were Afghan veterans and a real asset, though as they and the South Africans had no language in common they had to work through a translator. Eventually the insurgents decided to negotiate with the government.
Two Hinds were shot down by Stingers fired by the Contras. A third Hind was damaged while pursuing Contras near the Honduran border, when it ran into Honduran F-86 Sabres and A-37 Dragonflies. A fourth was flown by a defecting Sandanista pilot to Honduras in December 1988. After the civil war finally faded out at the end of the decade, Nicaragua couldn't afford to support their Hinds and sold the survivors off to Peru.
* Of course, Hinds were obtained by the Warsaw Pact states:
A number of other nations have obtained Hinds, with the details being generally unclear:
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 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 entirely 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.
* Finally, Hinds are also in service with many of the successor states to the former Soviet Union. Russia has large numbers, the Ukraine has at least 270, Belarus has about 80, Georgia about 40, and small numbers are still in service in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Krygystan, Moldova, and Tajikistan.
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, 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 their mission.
* 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 a long time 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.
The prototype was really only a baseline for possible Mi-35M configurations and the actual configuration of the production M-35M, if and when anybody orders it, will likely differ in at least a few ways. For example, although the prototype was fitted with standard Isotov TV3-117 turboshafts, the production machine will be fitted with new Klimov VK-2500 turboshafts with 1,790 skW (2,400 SHP) each. The VK-2500 was certified in early 2001. Another possibility is avionics supplied by SAGEM of France.
In the meantime, Mil and Rostvertol are offering a range of more modest upgrades under a bewildering and shifting series of definitions and designations. One simple upgrade configuration involves fitting a new day-night targeting system, a countermeasures suite, and support for advanced missiles such as listed above. Rostvertol performed such an upgrade on two Mi-35s and two Mi-35Ps of the Air Force of Zimbabwe in 2000. What upgrades the Russian military finally settles on for their Hinds remains to be seen.
* Many Hinds are in service in Eastern Europe, and in the spring of 2002, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, known as the "Visegrad Four (V4)", signed an agreement to cooperate in an upgrade of a total of about 115 Hinds. The Czech Republic plans to upgrade 24 machines, Hungary 28 to 32, Poland 40, and Slovakia 10 to 12.
The goal of the "V4 upgrade" included 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. The Polish Defense Ministry has formal management responsibility and is working with the Mil design organization, the Russian Rostvertol manufacturing organization, as well as aerospace firms from around the world. The Russians have been very touchy about "unauthorized" upgrade work on Hinds, citing their intellectual property rights, but the Poles have been careful to make sure the Russians are happy with the arrangement.
The exact details and final contractor arrangements for the V4 upgrade have not been determined at this time, though it is known that the upgrade will differ for each of the nations involved, and in fact some of the nations may upgrade to multiple variants. The upgrade program does dictate that there will be a 70% core commonality between all the different variants.
The Poles want to include a handful of combat search and rescue (CSAR) variants of the Hind in their upgrade program, which would feature rescue and medical support gear along with the rest of the upgrade. Polish V4 Hinds are also expected to carry the Israeli Rafael Spike-LR antitank missile, and the 12.7 millimeter YakB machine gun is likely to be replaced by the Italian Oto Melara TM-197 three-barreled 20 millimeter cannon, a member of the General Electric Vulcan Gatling-type cannon family.
The rest of the members of the V4 group may not upgrade the gun turret, but there is talk of upgrading to a modern Russian antitank missile. Use of a Russian weapon is not expected to cause serious problems for NATO interoperability, since NATO has long used a wide mix of weapons among the member states, and would be much cheaper than a Western equivalent.
A number of other Eastern European states that are Hind operators, such as Croatia and Macedonia, are interested in the V4 upgrade. 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 is not expected until mid-2003 at earliest.
The Ukraine's AVIAKON organization, which was established in Soviet days to provide maintenance support for Soviet-built helicopters, is also offering Hind upgrades. Although it doesn't appear that anybody has bought upgrades from AVIAKON yet, the organization can offer a menu of possible improvements, including engine upgrades, improved avionics, a countermeasures suite, helmet-mounted sights, and so on.
* The Indians are now upgrading at least 25 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.
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 are grafted on 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.
ATE is also working on an "agility" update, with new composite rotors, fixed landing gear, and considerable replacement of internal systems and armor with more modern, effective, and lighter equivalents.
* 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, as it clearly differs in detail. It has a conventional main-tail rotor configuration; is powered by twin TV3-117KM turboshafts with 1,640 skW (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 that 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 plyons. 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.
The Havoc actually has a small cargo compartment of sorts, though its main
rationale is to allow one helicopter to rescue the crew of another. It could
almost certainly be used to carry some ammunition reloads as well.
MIL MI-28A HAVOC:
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spec metric english
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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
_____________________ _________________ _______________________
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 rotorblades 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 skW (2,500 SHP) each. There has been no commitment to production of the Havoc-B, either, and the Mil organization has sought foreign sales.
* The US Army first got their hands on a Hind-D gunship in the mid-1980s, before the fall of the USSR, by means that still remain secret. 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, as it was three times bigger than a HueyCobra, and also by its heavy 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 idiosyncracies. One was that the helicopter's APU has a tendency to blast out a gush of flame when it's 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 block 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 in turn 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 regards the Hind's unusual flying characteristics as a design tradeoff, not a design flaw. There are now more Hinds in US Army service, operating as aggressor training machines, and Army pilots praise it. They say it is quiet and gives a very smooth ride, "like an old '62 Cadillac." Stayton feels that it is more fun to fly than any other helicopter he's 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 new Russia is much more outgoing, if sometimes muddled, but reliable information is slowly becoming available.
For example, older Western sources on the Hind give the "Mi-24B" as the initial operational "Hind-A" variant, with the early prototypes assigned the "Mi-24A" designation and becoming the "Hind-B". It now seems the Mi-24A was the Hind-A and that the prototypes were only known as "V-24s". The "Mi-24B" was actually an interim type leading up to the Mi-24D that did not reach production.
The result was that writing this document led to 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 beg forgiveness if this seems a bit disrespectful. Certainly the Russian name "Crocodile" seems far more fitting.
* Sources include:
* Revision history:
v1.0.0 / 01 oct 02 / gvg
v1.1.0 / 01 apr 03 / gvg / Comments on upgrades, split into chapters.