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Russia eyes new combat and transport chopper for its airborne troops.

| 2018

Russian military and designers are considering a new helicopter for the country's airborne troops not so much as an aerial vehicle but rather as a flying combat vehicle of assault troops, the Izvestia newspaper writes.

Russia eyes new combat and transport chopper for its airborne troops A Mi-24 combat and transport helicopter in live firing demonstration during Army-2018 forum and exhibition
(Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence)

"Jointly with the Airborne Force experts technical specifications have been elaborated for the "assault troops’ flying combat vehicle." This will accommodate eight troops, becoming virtually an airborne combat vehicle with its takeoff and landing capabilities, including in a mountainous terrain," said at the Army-2018 forum Sergey Romanenko, executive director of Mil Helicopter Plant of Moscow.

According to him, the research and development of the vehicle will start in 2019 for handing over to the military, by the year 2026, the first operational examples.

This concept was seriously studied in the USSR. It began with the Mi-24 which, as per original concept, was to deliver assault troops to the battlefield and carry strike weapons for their support. However, even though the helicopter is till dubbed combat transport, it began to be used exclusively as a fire support platform.

In the US, similar views on helicopters were popular till the Vietnam War, led to creation of the UH-60 Blackhawk which despite the attack weapon suite has no armor protection and cannot be used as an assault aircraft. In the USSR a dual system of airborne troops had prevailed. The "strategic" assault force parachuted with equipment from transport aircraft, was part of the Airborne Force and was included in the central command. Simultaneously, however, airborne assault units were formed commanded by military districts.

Those were designed for the "vertical embrace" of tactical helicopter landing forces, relatively close to the troops contact line for disorganizing the enemy’s near rear. For them, including in the 1980s, a new tactics of "operative maneuvering groups" had been developed (separately from army corpses) in whose advance operations mobile mechanized brigades with isolated combat orders were combined with air assault regiments.

As early as 1980s the Soviet military and designers went still further. According to their concept a flying infantry fighting vehicle for such units had to be simultaneously an assault force’s fire support system and a protected transport.

In 1983 technical specifications were issued for a new generation Mi-24, the so-called "helicopter-carried IFV that took into account all the solutions obtained in designing the Mi-28 helicopter. This resulted in a 12 ton machine of a classical layout with main and anti-torque rotors, powerful machinegun armament and suspensions for anti-tank and unguided missiles. It carried a crew of two and eight paratroops or eight stretchers.

However, the military discarded the helicopter. As a result, in 1985 designing of the next machine began, Mi-42, a much more novel model. It was excessive novelty, combined with the military’s controversial requirements that ruined this machine. The former sought to create an armored military transport platform with armament, sighting system and tactical characteristics of the Mi-28. In addition, they wanted it to be powered by standard solar oil used by the troops, and be simple enough to be operated by recruited sergeants in their second year of service. By 1992 this project was rejected, after which many attempts were made to re-launch it using new technologies, for instance the installation of an above-rotor radar and a package of new avionics.

However, the idea of the helicopter-carried IFV on the Mi-28 platform had not died in those years, regularly emerging in publications on advanced airborne assault forces. Vladimir Shamanov, Airborne Force Commander during 2009-2016, reverted time and again to this issues. So, in 2013 he declared that work was underway on the concept of a new airborne assault vehicle. In his words, it had to be "a helicopter with powerful armament capable of making combat insertions out to 10 to 70 km which dramatically enhance the troop’s maneuverability." Also, the vehicle was supposed to have folding rotor blades and, according to technical specifications, be low-priced and simple to operate. The high requirements for troops’ mobility and a high intensity of modern operations urge the military again and again to turn to this seemingly exotic combat weapon, the Izvestia newspaper writes.

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