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The mighty Mi-24: the world's most widely used combat helicopter soldiers on.

The late 1960s was the time when the combat-helicopter concept was being born in many countries. In Western Europe, it came through arming light helicopters with ATGMs for use as mobile anti-tank forces, with the ability to rapidly concentrate at a critical area of battlefield. In the US, the combat-helicopter concept was driven by the current needs of the Vietnam War, and as a result, the first US combat helicopters were of the "gunship" type, armed with various machine guns, grenade launchers, and unguided rockets. Only later were US combat helicopters armed with guided missiles for scenarios in the European theater of operations. In the Soviet Union, there was no need for anti-tank reinforcement, since Soviet armor forces overwhelming outnumbered NATO ones. There was also no need for a "counterinsurgency gunship" in the US style. There was, however, a need for a helicopter that would provide fire support for air-mobile forces and that would clear the way for operational maneuver groups, but the initiative for building such a helicopter was to come not from the armed forces but from Mil Design Bureau (Moscow, Russia).

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At the time, the role of Soviet army aviation was to provide troops with air-assault capabilities, tactical air mobility, tactical transport, battlefield surveillance and artillery correction, liaison, medical evacuation, and special-forces support. The medium transport helicopter was to be the main type, since it was able to perform most of these tasks. The need for dedicated combat helicopters was not yet universally recognized.

In late 1966, the Mil Design Bureau was very much fascinated by the "helicopter boom" in Vietnam. The war was proving the versatility and usefulness of rotorcraft on the battlefield. It was certainly good news for helicopter makers. One of the conclusions Mil's planners drew was the need for a combat helicopter--not to replace fighter-bomber aircraft in the close-air-support role but to supplement them. According to this reasoning, the fighter-bomber could be compared to the tank, with protection in the form of speed rather than armor; and the new combat helicopter would play the role of infantry fighting vehicle. It was to carry an infantry squad and be armed with a movable gun, unguided rockets, or guided anti-tank missiles interchangeably. The latter were intended not only to engage tanks but also other point targets, such as bunkers, reinforced defensive positions, and enemy anti-tank systems that could endanger Soviet tanks in their advance.

The first Mi-24 project was prepared at the Mil Design Bureau without any armed-forces requirements. It had a single TV3-117 2,200 HP engine, could carry up to eight soldiers in a small transport cabin, and had ski-type landing gear. A mockup was built in early 1966, but the military remained skeptical. In particular, then Minister of Defense Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, opposed the project, pronouncing it "a waste of time and resources." The project was almost killed outright, but the Mil proposal had sparked a dispute within the Soviet Armed Forces between supporters and opponents of the combat-helicopter concept.

Official Requirements

The discussion could not be ignored, and on March 29, 1967, the Soviet government issued a decision obliging the Mil Design Bureau to prepare an official proposal for a combat-helicopter project to the armed forces. It was not yet a requirement for new hardware but just a "request for a proposal." Mil prepared two proposals for combat helicopters called the Mi-24: a single-engine aircraft with seven tons of take-off weight, based on the earlier study, and a two-engine (TV3-117) aircraft with 11 tons of take-off weight. At the same time, Mil was working on the Mi-22 lighter helicopter project on its own initiative. It was to be powered by a single 1,250 HPGTD-10 engine and was to have a take-off weight of 4.3 tons. Work on this project proceeded until the first Mi-24 was flown. Then the "Mi-22" designation was reassigned to an airborne command post based on the Mi-6 heavy helicopter. Interestingly, Nikolay Kamov prepared a proposal for a combat helicopter based on the Ka-25 naval helicopter. This was relatively easy, since the Ka-25 power module was a separate element attached to the top of cabin, so only a new cabin need be designed. The helicopter was called the Ka-25F (F for Frontovyi, frontal) and was to carry eight soldiers.

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All of the proposals were considered by the military forces, which were still divided as to the worthiness of the concept. Newly added requirements for partial armoring of the transport cabin and cockpit while achieving a maximum speed of at least 300 km/h effectively killed the lighter proposals: the Mi-22, the single-engine Mi-24, and the Ka-25F. Only the two--engine Mi-24 could proceed to the next stage of development.

It was then decided that the helicopter should be armed with a movable gun below the cockpit, carry the Shturm-V anti-tank guided-missile system with radio-command semi-active guidance, and have an electro-optical sight and laser rangefinder. All of these requirements were officially issued in the form of a joint decision of the Central Committee of Communist Party and the Soviet government on May 6, 1968. The decision called for the construction of two prototypes and 10 pre-production helicopters, now officially designated Mi-24. The project received OKB (bureau) designation, Izdyelye 240 (Item 240).

Mi-24 Prototypes

The two prototypes were built very quickly by Mil's Moscow Research Plant using some systems and components developed earlier for the Mi-14 anti-submarine-warfare (ASW) helicopter (TV3-117 engines, transmission, main and tail rotors, control system, and elements of other installations). The fuselage was designed from the outset with a large cockpit for the pilot and weapon operator and a cabin for carrying eight soldiers and a technician. The front position in the cockpit was occupied by the weapons operator, with the pilot's seat was behind him and offset to the left. Short wings with no dihedral improved aerodynamics at high speed, creating up to a quarter of the lift, and were designed to carry external stores. Anti-tank missiles were to be carried on pylons attached to the lower frontal part of fuselage, but no guidance system was actually mounted on the prototypes. The lack of an adequate gun forced Mil to use the Afanasyev A-12.7 single-barrel 12.7mm gun with 900 rounds stored in a large box in the cockpit. The gun was mounted in a movable turret below the nose.

The first Mi-24 prototype was flown in Moscow on Sept. 15, 1969. It was attached to the ground by metal wires for hover tests. The first free flight was made four days later. The first of the 10 pre-production Mi-24s was flown in 1970. Five of the pre-production Mi-24s were built in Moscow and the next five in Arsyenyev, at Aviation Plant No. 116 (currently the Progress Aviation Plant) which had been put at Mil's disposal. The helicopters were tested intensively but never passed state trials, since requirements--mainly for the Shturm-V weapons system--were not met. The 10 pre-production Mi-24s carried the NATO designation Hind B because the type was recognized later than series Mi-24A, called Hind A.

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Mi-24A (Izdyelye 245; Hind A) and Mi-24U (Izdyelye 244; Hind C)

The biggest shortcoming of the Mi-24 was the lack of the desired Shturm-V weapon system, which was experiencing development difficulties and delays. It was, therefore, decided that interim versions of the helicopter would be produced. The first of these was the Mi-24A, armed with Falanga-M weapon system consisting of manually guided 9M17M Scorpion anti-tank missiles mounted on rails attached below the ends of lengthened wings on four rails. The next was to be the Mi-24B (mot to be confused with the NATO designation Hind B for the pre-production models), armed with the Falanga-P weapon system with semi-active guided 9M17MP missiles. The next was to be the "ultimate" Mi-24V version with the Shturm-V weapon system. As it happened, there was another interim version of the Mi-24 built first: the Mi-24D. Keep in mind that A, B, V, G, and D are consecutive letters in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, so the next version should be Mi-24G. Indeed, the Mi-24D was initially referred to as the Mi-24G. However, program manager Viacheslav Kuznetsov knew the poor reputation of the Mi-24 in the armed forces, and he was afraid that the "G" designation would lead to the nickname "Ghovno" (shit). To avoid this, he decided to skip this designation in favor of the next letter in alphabet--thus, the Mi-24D. All of the other versions carried designations related to their function, for example U for "utshebnyi" (training), or for a special feature--for example, P for "pushetshnyi" (gun armed).

Mi-24As were manufactured in Arsyenyev from 1971 through 1974, with a total of 240 examples produced. A small number of them were unarmed Mi-24U training versions with the front seat designated for an instructor, who received all instruments and flying controls. Mi-24A and Mi-24U helicopters were issued to army aviation units from 1972 onwards, but the helicopter was not officially accepted into service. The armed forces had a lot of concerns about it. The whole weapons system was deemed ineffective, especially the manually guided anti-tank missiles and the gun with its low rate of fire. The Falanga-M missiles could be used only from hover, and their hit rate was low. The list of shortcomings was long. Crews complained about poor visibility from the pilot's seat, where the field of view was obstructed primarily by the weapons-system operator but also by numerous frames of the greenhouse-type canopy. All of this convinced the military that it did not want the Mi-24A. But on the other hand, the need for a combat helicopter had been recognized by this time, and the use of Mi-24A in front-line units demonstrated, at least theoretically, that such helicopters would be useful.

At the demand of the armed forces, the "ultimate" version--Mi-24V--was developed. Two Mi-24V prototypes were made by converting the first two pre-production Mi-24s. These received a prototype version of the Shturm-V and a new four-barrel powered 12.7mm gun designed by Yakushev and Borzov: the YakB-12.7 (also called the 9A624) in a movable USPU-24 turret and with a 1,470-round magazine. The gun worked with a KPS-53AV optical sight on a ratable column in front of the weapons-system operator's seat. The sight was integrated with an Aist analog processor that had an interface to the air-pressure and angle-of-attack sensors. The processor calculated corrections for helicopter and target movement, as well as ballistics of the gun. The optical sight measured the distance to the target after the operator manually input the target size. The Mi-24V also received new bulbed individual canopies, with the pilot's seat directly behind the weapons system operator. However, now the pilot's seat was placed higher than the front seat, giving him much better field of view.

The Mi-24V was more or less what the armed forces wanted, but its trials still lasted for four years. During this interval, two more interim versions were built to fill the increasingly urgent need of army aviation for a combat helicopter.

Mi-24B (Izdyelye 241; no NATO designation)

In 1972 the Arsyenyev aviation plant produced a batch of 30 helicopters under the designation Mi-24B. This was basically the Mi-24A but with the new Falanga-MP anti-tank missile system, which used 9M17P Scorpion missiles with radio-command semi-active guidance. The missiles worked with the Raduga-F day-only optical sight placed below the nose. The Raduga-F automatically tracked fired missiles, which flew to the target at subsonic speed. The Mi-24B was also equipped with the USPU-24 turret with the YakB-12.7 gun, but it retained the old greenhouse canopy. The Mi-24B was not spotted by NATO intelligence, and the version, thought used in some army aviation units, never received a NATO designation.

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Mi-24D (Izdyelye 246; NATO: Hind D) and Mi-24DU (Izdyelye 249)

In 1973 the bulbed canopy from of the Mi-24V prototypes was adapted to the Mi-24B helicopter, and, thus, the next version appeared, dubbed the Mi-24D. It entered production at Arsyenyev in late 1973. The Mi-24D, with its much more effective weapons system, partially satisfied army aviation requirements, although they still wanted the Shturm-V. It was, therefore, decided that production of the Mi-24D would be mainly to replace all of the Mi-24A and Mi-24B helicopters in front-line units. The Mi-24As and Mi-24Bs were transferred to schools and stored in depots, and some of these were subsequently exported to Algeria and Afghanistan. Interestingly, the Soviet Armed Forces, holding out for the Mi-24V, still refused to accept the Mi-24D officially into service until March 29, 1976, on the very same day as the Mi-24V.

The production of Mi-24Ds continued at Arsyenyev until about 1978, and at Aviation Plant No. 168 in Rostov on Don (currently OJSC Rosvertol) through 1978, mainly for export. In total, 625 Mi-24Ds were produced, about half of them for export. Because of the shape of the nose, Soviet soldiers quickly nicknamed the Mi-24 "Crocodile," a name that continues to this day (rather like the US A-10 is called the Warthog). The Mi-24D quickly replaced the Mi-24A and Mi-24B in combat units.

Mi-24V (Izdyelye 242; NATO: Hind E)

Production of the Mi-24V started in 1976 at Arsyenyev and later also at Rostov on Don, again mainly for export. Production of the type continued until 1986, and 1,493 examples rolled off the production lines, making it the most popular version of the helicopter. The Mi-24V received the 9K113V Shturm-V weapon system, with the Raduga-Sh targeting device. This was basically similar to the Raduga-F but had an infrared tracker adapted for tracking 9M114 Kokon supersonic missiles. Another change was the introduction of the new ASP-17 optical targeting system for unguided weapons. This was integrated with a DISS-15 Doppler navigation radar for ballistic calculation.

The Mi-24V was equipped from the outset with the SPO-15 RWR, with antennas initially located below the front cockpit and later behind the cockpit. Since 1980, both versions of the helicopters in production (the Mi-24V for Soviet forces and the Mi-24D for export) were equipped with the L-166 Ispanka active IR jammer, located on the top of the fuselage between the engine exhausts. At that time, the system created false IR beams (initially two, later five) to cope with amplitude-modulated IR seekers typical of Redeye and early Sidewinder missiles. During the late production period, Mi-24Vs were equipped with TV3-117V engines with much better altitude characteristics. As for armament, the Mi-24V could carry up to eight 9M114 anti-tank missiles on dual launchers: four on dedicated wingtip pylons and four on the two wing pylons wired to accommodate them. The two remaining wing pylons for unguided ordnance were not wired for anti-tank missiles. Four 9M32M Strela-2M air-to-air IR-guided missiles could be carried on the wingtip pylons, instead of four antitank missiles. These were mainly to be used in self-defense against enemy helicopters.

In the early 1980s, the Mi-24V (and later the Mi-24P) received new types of unguided weapons: the B-8-20 launchers for 20 78mm S-8 rockets (four could be carried in place of the UB-32 launchers for 32 57mm S-57 rockets), the S-24B heavy 240mm rockets (four rockets could be attached individually in place of rocket launchers), the KMGU-1 cluster-bomb dispensers, and gun pods. Every KMGU-1 can be loaded with eight containers, with each container carrying either 12 PTAB-2.5 antitank bomblets, 256 PTAB-1 small anti-armor bomblets, 12 AO-2.5 antipersonnel bomblets, 12 PTM-1 antitank mines, or 24 PFM-1 anti-personnel mines. Four KMGU dispensers can be attached under the Mi-24's wings in place of rockets. The gun pods were of two types: the UPK-23-250 with a two-barrel 23mm GSh-23L gun and 250 rounds of ammunition; and the GUV (9A669) modular pod with either a 12.7mm YakB-12.7 gun with 300 rounds and two 7.62mm GShG-7.62 guns with 700 rounds each; or a 30mm Plamya grenade launcher with 300 grenades and two 7.62mm guns. The last pod was introduced in Afghanistan for counter-insurgency missions. The Mi-24D could not be similarly armed due to the inefficiency of its PKV optical sight, but the ASP-17B optical sight on the Mi-24V and Mi-24P was able to calculate the ballistics of a wide range of weapons. The other weapon for all three main versions (Mi-24D, V, and P) included four 100- or 250-kg high-explosive fragmentation bombs, RBK-250 cluster bombs, or ZB-300 napalm bombs--making the Mi-24 the only rotary-wing bomber in the world.

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The Mi-24V was also exported, although much later than the Mi-24D. When exported outside the Warsaw Pact it was designated the Mi-35.

Mi-24P (Izdyelye 243; NATO: Hind F)

The effectiveness of the 12.7mm gun on the Mi-24 was assessed as inadequate by the Soviet military. It could not be used against armored targets, such as armored personnel carriers (APCs) or even armored antiaircraft systems, like the German Gepard or the European Roland. Although it was obvious that a larger weapon, such as a 30mm cannon, was needed, it was difficult to mount a long-barrel, high-recoil gun in a movable turret. The Soviet armed forces did not have a gun similar to the US M230 chain gun used on the AH-64 helicopter, so it was decided to use a fixed GSh-2-30K (9A623K) two-barrel 30mm gun with 250 rounds of ammunition. It was located on right side of the forward part of fuselage, while the gun turret was removed. The solution was not ideal, but since no other was available, the version entered production in 1981 under the designation Mi-24P (P for "pushechnyi," or gun armed). The Mi-24P initially did not replace the Mi-24V on the production line, since it was decided to use a mix of both types within each squadron. Some targets were to be engaged by the Mi-24V's movable gun, while armored targets were to be attacked by Mi-24Ps.

The Mi-24P lacked the KPS-53AV optical gun sight, so the front cockpit had room for full pilot controls and instruments. Therefore, the Mi-24P could be also used for pilot training. Production of the Mi-24P continued until 1989 in both main factories. A total of 635 helicopters of this version were produced. The export version of the Mi-24P for non-Warsaw Pact countries carried the designation Mi-35P.

In terms of self-protection systems, the Mi-24P from the outset received four ASO-2V countermeasures dispensers under the tail boom. Each had 32 barrels for 26mm PPR chaff or PPI flare rounds. While the type was in production, the launchers were increased to six and moved to the rear part of the fuselage sides. More or less at the same time, the engine's exhausts were equipped with EVU exhaust-gas coolers.

Mi-24VP (Izdyelye 258, NATO: Hind E)

In 1985 yet another attempt to reinforce the Mi-24's gun armament was undertaken. The four-barrel 12.7mm gun in the turret was replaced by a GSh-23L two-barrel 23mm gun. The system was called the NPPU-24. The gun had to be cooled for a few seconds after a burst. Another version of turret was developed, the NPPU-23, equipped with the water-cooled GSh-23V gun that could be fired almost continuously. The later version entered production 1989, under the designation Mi-24VP. However, only 25 were produced before production ended in the same year, due to the very poor economic state of the Soviet Union.

Mi-24RkHR (Izdyelye 2462; NATO: Hind G1)

The Mi-24RkHR (Radiatsyonno-Khemicheskiy Razvedchik, radiation-chemical reconnaissance) was a specialized version used for NBC-reconnaissance tasks. The guided-missile system was removed and replaced by special devices for taking soil samples for analysis while the helicopter was hovering just above the ground. The transport cabin was filled by radiation-measurement and chemical-analysis equipment. while the whole interior (cockpits and cabin) was pressurized. The helicopter carried a crew of four: two pilots, a flying technician, and a mission-equipment operator. Generally, the version was based on a late Mi-24V, with the same self-protection suite and avionics, including the Raduga-Sh observation system. Between 1983 and 1989, 110 helicopters of this version were produced. It is commonly referred to as the Mi-24R, and this is the name under which it is known in the West.

The first real employment of the Mi-24RkHR took place in April 1986, when the version was used to help assess the results of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. In 1995 new mission equipment was fitted, with modernized helicopters carrying the designation Mi-24RkHRA (or Mi-24RA). The type was not exported, although it serves in some former Soviet republics--notably Belarus and Ukraine--along with Russia.

Mi-24K (Izdyelye 201, NATO: Hind G2)

Another specialized version was the Mi-24K (K for Koriguyushchiy, or artillery correction). It was a battlefield-surveillance helicopter, used mainly for artillery targeting and shot correction. The Mi-24K also had its anti-tank weapon system removed--in this case, including the Raduga-Sh observation system. A new observation system was mounted under the nose: the Ruta, with an Iris zoom TV camera and a radio link for intelligence-data transmission. The crewmember in the front cockpit had a TV monitor and a keyboard on which he entered data about detected targets. This information was subsequently sent to a ground station. The artillery correction was conduced by voice communications--every Mi-24 (not just Mi-24K) had a Karat-24 HF radio for direct communication with ground forces. The Mi-24K had an AFA-100 photo camera mounted in the transport cabin with a 1,300mm lens directed obliquely to the right side of the helicopter. The wet-film camera was controlled from the front cockpit by the reconnaissance operator.

During 1983-1989, a total of 92 Mi-24Ks were produced. Like the Mi-24RkHR, the version was not exported, although it can be found in the armed forces of Russia and some former Soviet republics.

Mi-24 Modernization Efforts

The first significant Mi-24 modernization effort was the Mi-24VM project undertaken in Russia in 1994. The project was prepared by the Mil Design Bureau as a private venture, mainly for export, but it was expected that the Russian Air Force might also proceed with it. For financial reasons. it was divided into blocks that could be performed separately according to different customer requirements and as resources became available.

Block 1 activities mainly involved structural reinforcement, service-life extension, and installation of the GSh-23L cannon in the nose turret (NPPU-24 weapons system) in place of the obsolete heavy machine gun. A fuller modernization package also included the Shurm anti-tank missile, the ASP-17B sight for unguided armament, SPO-15 RWRs, six ASO-2V countermeasures dispensers, and other changes. The modernized helicopters were designated Mi-35VP (gun change only), and Mi-35M for the full-stage modernization package. The modernizations were based on the Mi-35 (Mi-24V in Russian service), but for export, an option was offered in which the Mi-25 (Mi-24D) was upgraded to the Mi-24VP standard. The resulting version carried either the designation Mi-35VP (gun only) or Mi-35M (full-stage modernization).

Block 2 included a single Geofizyka color display in each cockpit for a moving map or target picture and a NVG-compatible cockpit--with no NVGs integrated at this stage. To save weight, the helicopter had a fixed, nonretractable undercarriage and shorter wings with four weapons stations (with a total capacity of 16 Shturm-V antitank missiles), and composite main-rotor blades. The variant also received an X-type tail rotor and more powerful engines. The helicopter was also able to carry up to four 9M36 Strela-3 air-to-air missiles on two weapons pylons. leaving the remaining two for anti-tank missiles or other weapons. The version resulting from the Block 2 modernization was called the Mi-24VM-1 in Russian service or Mi-35M-1 for export.

Block 3 was to cover installation of a lightweight data-exchange modem and a modern R-999 UHF/VHF radio. The GSh-23L short-burst cannon was replaced with the water-cooled GSh-23V gun capable of long bursts. The 9M39 Igla air-to-air missile replaced the 9M36. Helicopters receiving the Block 3 modernization were to be called Mi-24VM-2 in Russian service or Mi-35M-2 for export.

Block 4 modernization covered installation of the new PRNK-24 fire-control system, which consisted of the TsVM digital computer, the Zenit Tor-24 day/night low-light-level (LLL) TV system in place of the (daylight-only) Raduga optical system. and some other minor elements (e.g., new sights in the cockpits). The Shturm-V anti-tank missiles were replaced by 9M120 Ataka missiles. The self-protection systems were upgraded with the addition of SPO-32 Pastel RWRs, with a digital processor that enabled automated use of the system. The ASO-2V countermeasures dispensers were retained but were loaded with new. more effective decoy rounds. The L-166 Ispanka IR jammer was eliminated. The new suite also included mounting of the Mak-UFM missile warner and the Otklik laser-warning system (LWS). After this modernization, the helicopter was designated the Mi-24VM-3 in Russian service or Mi-35M-3 for export.

Block 5 modernization differed for export and for domestic purposes. In general, it included further enhancements of avionics systems by replacing the cockpit displays with active-matrix ones. Additionally, a forward-looking infrared (FLIR)/laser turret was to be mounted on the side of the helicopter: a Thales (Paris, France) Chlio for export or an UOMZ GOES-342 with the Sony EV1331 TV and the Agema THV1000 FLIR, as well as a laser, for Russian service. Also, a Russian IKV or French Sagem Nadir 10 inertial-navigation system (INS) was to be integrated with the PRNK-24 fire-control system, along with an embedded Russian A737 Glonass or French GPS receiver. And finally, this version received night-vision goggles. A mock-up of the Block 5 modernization with French avionics was shown in Paris in 1995. However, no customer was found, and the project was shelved.

Five prototypes of various modernization configurations of the Mi-24VM project were built for tests, although no complete, ultimate prototype has been built. The modernization was not accepted by the Russian Air Force, but it remains available for export. Various elements of the modernization were employed on three Mi-24Vs delivered to Uganda in 2003. The modernization itself was performed in Belarus by the Baranovichi Aircraft Repair Plant, though without the Shturm targeting functions of the GOES-342.

Mi-24PN

The only successful modernized variant of the Mi-24 for Russian forces is the Mi-24PN. It has less sophisticated avionics than the Mi-24VM modernization proposals. The existing Raduga-Sh optical station was retained but was integrated with a TpN-475N Zaryevo FLIR mounted centrally under the nose. The Zaryevo has been adapted from the Noktyurn thermal-imaging system used in tanks and was developed by OAO Krasnogorskiy Zavod (Krasnogorod, Russia). The navigation system is an A-737-011 GPS receiver embedded with the INS. All the avionics were integrated into the BREO-24 system, with a new TsVM-486-2 digital processor made by Ruskaya Avionika (Ramenskoye, Russia). Each cockpit received two MFI-10-5V 6X8-in., NVG-compatible, color multifunction displays developed by Ruskaya Avionika. The crew uses ONV-1 NVGs developed by UOMZ (Yekaterinburg, Russia).

The weapons fit did not change, except for the ability to carry up to four Igla-V missiles, but planned future packages include a Raduga-ShM station with 9S477 guidance-command transmitters for Ataka missiles. The self-protection suite includes a modernized Lipa IR jammer (not to be confused with the typical L-166, unofficially called Lipa), which reportedly creates amplitude- and frequency-modulated IR jamming.

Two prototypes of the Mi-24PN were flown in late 2002, and a serious modernization program started in July 2003. The first modernized helicopter was handed over to the Russian Air Force in December 2003. Through mid-2004, the Russian Air Force had received eight modernized helicopters. Presently, the Mi-24P is the only combat version of Mi-24 helicopter that remains in Russian service. It is planned that a total of 200 helicopters are to be modernized to this standard, along with a procurement of at least 50 new Mi-28N combat helicopters.

Ukrainian Mi-24 Modernization

Ukraine is one of the ex-Soviet republics that has undertaken efforts to modernize its military forces, although not at a rapid pace, due to financial restrictions. One such program is the modernization of the Mi-24's self-protection systems. The program started last year and is to be implemented throughout 2005. It is a simple and cheap solution, but it will enhance the helicopters' survivability against modern IR-guided missiles. The legacy system was fielded in 1982 and is rather inadequate for dealing with modern threats.

Ukraine's Mi-24 and Mi-8MT (Mi-17) helicopters are presently equipped with an active, omnidirectional IR jammer that works continuously, independent of any missile-warning system. The L166V jammer and the more modern L166V1A version were developed and produced by ZOMZ (Sergiyev-Posady, Russia). The systems generate active IR jamming with amplitude-phase modulation across the band of 1.8-4.2 [micro]m. The system had an advertised effectiveness of 30% against Stinger-type missiles.

Adron Company (Kiev, Ukraine) developed a new jammer in 2004 called the Adros KT-01AV. It has a similar appearance to the L166V family and--what is most important--fits into the same base as the L166V1A and uses much of its wiring, making the upgrade relatively easy and eliminating the need for significant rebuilding of the helicopter. The Adros KT-01AV generates three types of jamming: amplitude-phase, frequency-phase, and time-pulse modulations. The effective bandwidth has been increased to 1.8-5.5 [micro]m. The advertised effectiveness of the new jammer is 70-80% against Stinger-type missiles.

The new jammer mount underwent trials conducted in October 2004 on a Ukrainian Mi-24VP. The trials were conducted on the ground with the use of lgla-1, R-60M, and R-73 missile seekers. It is expected that flight trials of the system will be undertaken this year, to include live-fire tests. If the Adros KT-1AV is accepted into service--and all indications are that it will be--the system will be produced by NPK Progress (Niezhyn, Ukraine) and mounted on the Mi-24 (and possibly Mi-8MT) helicopters by the Aviakon overhaul factory (Konotop, Ukraine).

The active jammer is not the only element of the planned modernization, though. Adron also developed the AP-1V heat suppressors that are mounted on the helicopters' engine exhausts, in place of the standard Russian EVU suppressors, which are not always available on early-model Ukrainian helicopters. The new AP-1V suppressors are lighter than EVU and, according to the company's claim, more effective.

Modernization for Zimbabwe

The last confirmed Mi-24 modernization made by Russia for export is a batch of four Mi-35Ms that were delivered to Zimbabwe. The basis for the modernization were two Mi-35s (Mi-24Vs) and two Mi-35Ps (Mi-24Ps). All four helicopters are used for reconnaissance and armed-recce missions. The program is similar to the Belarussian modernization of Ugandan Mi-35Ms described above. The helicopters received Garmin 155L GPS navigation systems with the VPS-250 processor, which enabled display of the helicopter's position in the cockpit and in the screen of a fourth crew member in the transport cabin: a reconnaissance operator. Each helicopter also received an IRTV-445MGII Loris thermal/TV surveillance system, with the display at the reconnaissance operator's station. The system is not connected to the helicopter's fire-control system, which remained unchanged. Finally, the cockpit has been made NVG compatible, and the crew uses Russian NVGs.

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Western Proposals for Mi-24 Modernization

At one time, many of the former Warsaw Pact nations had banded together to develop common requirements for a significant Mi-24 upgrade program, although this consortium subsequently fractured over specifics and funding priorities. Nevertheless, these nations are moving forward at their own paces, sometimes in smaller partnerships. Interestingly, some Western countries have seen enough potential in the world Mi-24 upgrade market to float their own proposals.

Details of a BAE Systems (Farnborough, UK) proposal are known from the company's offer to modernize Polish Mi-24Vs. Initially, Poland wanted to modernize 40 helicopters, but this was recently reduced to only 14. Polish Mi-24s are operated by two units: the 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the 49th Combat Helicopter Wing in Pruszcz Gdanski (Mi-24Ds) and the 3rd Squadron of the 56th Combat Helicopter Wing in Inowroclaw (Mi-24Vs). The modernization of Polish Mi-24s is to be done in Poland at the WZL-I aircraft repair plant in Lodz. While and integrator has not yet been chosen, BAE Systems appears to be the leading candidate.

The BAE Systems offer is tailored to closely meet Polish requirements but can be implemented in stages to increase affordability. The helicopters, after refurbishing and life-extension modifications, will receive an integrated tactical system, including navigation with embedded INS/GPS, a digital map display, glass cockpits with two color multifunction displays in each, helmet-mounted displays and cueing systems, and a new mission computer. The surveillance and targeting functions will be supported by the Titan 385 electro-optical (EO)/IR turret with a dual-band FLIR. The turret also has a LLL CCD TV camera and laser rangefinder. A navigation FLIR is also mounted in the same turret. The electronic-countermeasures (ECM) suite offered by BAE Systems is based on the Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (HIDAS), developed originally for the UK's WAH-64D Apaches. It uses a separate, dedicated databus, integratedelectronic-support measures (ESM) with a RWR, missile- and laser-warners (both optional), and either ALE-40 or ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers. It will also include the Ispanka jammer, controlled by the HIDAS. The weapons system is to include the new Otobreda M197 20mm three-barrel gun in the nose turret, as well as anti-tank missiles of the user's choice. Poland chose the Rafael Spike-ER missile system. The package also includes NATO-compatible radios and identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) transponders.

Slovakia, which has remained in the joint program with Poland, intends to modernize 10 of its Mi-24Vs to a similar configuration. However, Slovakia plans to retain the Shturm anti-tank missiles but is considering replacing them with Atakas. The 10 Slovakian Mi-24Vs, together with Mi-24Ds and a single Mi-24DU (both of latter types will be withdrawn), are deployed with the 1st Combat Helicopter Squadron of the 3rd Helicopter Wing, based at Presov.

Bulgaria is also considering the BAE Systems upgrade, though with closer cooperation with Russia. Bulgaria intends to modernize five Mi-24Vs and seven Mi-24Ds to more or less the Slovakian standard. Bulgarian Mi-24s are used by the 1st Squadron of the 24th Helicopter Base at Plovdiv-Krumovo.

Croatia is another potential candidate for Mi-24 modernization, and Croatia's preference is to join the Polish-Slovakian program, but in cooperation with Ukraine for airframe and life-extension work.

The Czech Republic and Hungary, despite not formally withdrawing from the agreement mentioned above, want to proceed with their own modernization programs. In the case of the Czech Republic, interest is essentially limited to just upgrading the helicopters to basic NATO standards (transponder/IFF, radio, GPS navigation, etc.). The observation system, fire-control system, armament, and self-protection, systems will remain unchanged. The Czech Republic purchased 18 Mi-24Vs from Russian stocks, of which six have been delivered after extensive overhauls that extended the helicopters' life to 2025. The remaining 12 are to undergo similar overhauls. Only the 18 newly delivered Mi-24Vs are to be upgraded to basic NATO standards, while the earlier Mi-24D/DU/V types are to be withdrawn. All Czech Mi-24s are used at 231st Squadron of 23rd Helicopter Base in Prerov.

Hungary wants to conduct a deeper upgrade in cooperation with Ukraine (airframe, life-extension) and a team of Lockheed Martin and Elbit on avionics systems. The modernization is to cover 16 helicopters: 10 Mi-24Vs and six Mi-24Ps. The latter helicopters came from ex-East German stocks (Hungary did not operate the Mi-24P as a member of the Warsaw Pact). All of the older Hungarian Mi-24s (Mi-24Ds and some Mi-24Vs) are to be withdrawn. Modernized helicopters will be used by the 2nd Squadron of the 86th Helicopter Wing based at Szolnok.

Modernization for Algeria

Europe isn't the only place where the Mi-24 has been or is being upgraded with non-Russian technology. South Africa developed a modernization program in 1996 directed at export customers, since South African forces do not operate the Mi-24. It is conducted by Advanced Technology & Engineering (ATE) and is based on a proposal for an armed version of the Polish V-3K Huzar helicopter. It includes an upgraded navigation system with INS/GPS, plus a digital map display, glass cockpits, and a new fire-control system. The latter is based on the Kentron Argos EO turret to be mounted in a lengthened nose section. It consists of a dual-mode FLIR and long-range TV camera. The crew receives the Archer helmet-mounted display and cueing system. Except for the gun, the original weapons systems are either retained or replaced by South African munitions. Anti-tank missiles are either the ZT35 Ingwe or ZT6 Mokopa. The self-protection suite includes the Avitronics Helicopter Self-Protection System (HSPS), which integrates RWRs, missile and laser warners, and Vinten chaff/flare dispensers.

In 2000 Algeria decided to modernize 28 Mi-24Vs, the newest part of its large Mi-24 fleet, with a contract awarded to ATE two years later. As of early 2005, the modernization is ongoing, including re-arming of the helicopters with South African ZT6 Mokopa missiles.

Indian Modernization

Not to be left out, Israeli firms have also developed Mi-24 upgrades. IAI Tamam developed its Mission 24 modernization package, which it has proposed for Poland, but the company's real success came from another part of the world. After building one prototype in 2000, India decided to modernize 25 of its Mi-24Ds and Mi-24Vs (used in India under the export designations of Mi-25 and Mi-35, respectively). The IAI package includes an integrated avionics suite, INS/GPS navigation, new displays, and NVG-compatible cockpits. The system also integrates a helmet-mounted sight and cueing system, as well as an additional observation and targeting turret: the Helicopter Multi-Mission Optronic Stabilized Payload (HMOSP), derived from the system used on US Marine Corps AH-1W helicopters. It includes a dual-band FLIR, LLL CCD TV camera, and a laser rangefinder/illuminator. The latter can include a laser designator, if the user wishes to employ Helfire missiles with the system. However, when the user wishes to retain Russian antitank missiles (as is the case with India), it is necessary to also retain the Raduga-Sh, since integrating them with the HMOSP would be too costly. The self-protection system consists of RWRs, laser and missile warners, the Ispanka IR jammer, and AN/ALE-40 chaff/flare dispensers.

India selected IAI Taman's modernization proposal, and the first three Mi-35 Mission 24 helicopters were tested by the 104th Helicopter Squadron at Pathankot in February 2003. As of early 2005, the modernization in still underway. The ultimate number of the Mi-35 and Mi-35P helicopters that are to be modernized is unknown.

Elbit, meanwhile, is offering an almost identical upgrade package, except that it uses the Toplite optical turret and some components provided by other contractors. The Toplite is comparable with the HMOPS in general capabilities and consist of a FLIR, CCD TV camera, and laser rangefinder/illuminator, the latter of which, interestingly, can be used in two modes: one for Hellfire missiles and one for Paveway laser-guided bombs. However, the company has not yet received any contracts for such a modernization program.
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Author:Fiszer, Michal
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:6418
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