Russia has reportedly equipped its Mi-28NM ‘Night Hunter’ helicopters with heat-seeking missiles that can take down a wide range of enemy aircraft, including the US’ most advanced attack helicopter, AH-64 ‘Apache’.
According to Russian media reports, the country’s military has armed its newest attack helicopter with R-74M air-to-air guided missiles. The state-owned newspaper, Izvestia, said, “The latest Russian Mi-28NM attack helicopter will turn into a fighter capable of handling enemy aircraft, drones, and cruise missiles,
“Powerful R-74M ammunition will be installed onboard the rotorcraft to destroy air targets. They are able to bring down even fifth-generation aircraft.”
Developed by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, the Mi-28 combat helicopter is a Russian all-weather, day-night, military tandem, two-seat anti-armor attack helicopter.
The helicopter, known by the NATO codename Havoc, has no intended secondary transport capability and is better optimized than the Mil Mi-24 gunship for the role. It is equipped with a single gun in an under-nose barbette and possesses external loads on pylons beneath stub wings.
In the August of 1999, the developers rolled out a prototype for a day-and-night capable version, known as the Mi-28N Night Havoc. It was followed up by production in 2004 with the flight testing with the Russian Air Force beginning in 2005.
The Mi-28NM is an absolute upgrade of the Mi-28 Havoc, which was the lean successor of the Mi-24 Hind “flying tank” of Cold War fame.
The upgraded helicopter possesses a mast-mounted fire control radar for carrying out night operations.
The design of the helicopter is based on the conventional pod and boom configuration, with a tail rotor. Its main rotor head has elastomeric bearings with the main rotor blades made from composite materials.
The Night Havoc Mi-28N helicopters have been installed with a new design of all plastic rotor blades that enable them to sustain hits from 30mm shells.
The helicopter can be armed with a mixture of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, unguided rockets, and podded guns.
According to inputs from Army Technology, the Mi-28 and Mi-28N Night Havoc are equipped with Shturm and Ataka anti-tank missiles with the helicopters allowing up to 16 anti-tank missiles to be mounted on it.
In addition, the helicopter can also carry four containers with each comprising 20 80mm unguided rockets or with five 122mm rockets.
According to Robert Mitchell, a veteran US Army helicopter pilot who is now director of the Army’s Aviation Museum, unlike fighter jets, helicopters are not designed to be dogfighters.
“The Apache is designed to dominate the [ground] battlefield with massed fires. They are not designed to go around looking for airplanes to shoot down,” said Mitchell.
However, according to Izvestia, the Mi-28NM/R-47M has been designed to shoot down fixed-wing aircraft, drones, and cruise missiles, and can go hunting for enemy helicopters including US’ Apache helicopters.
The Apache is one of the world’s finest and most advanced, and most successful attack helicopters. They have been extensively used in the Middle East ever since their induction in the mid-1980s. The Apaches have been upgraded to modern standards with advanced avionics and better weaponry.
At present, the most advanced version of the helicopter remains the ‘E’ variant. The AH-64E was designated as ‘Guardian’ to distinguish it from previous models and represent increased capabilities.
Despite the caliber of the Apaches, according to a Russian pilot speaking to Izvestia, the Russian Mi-28NM will strike down their American counterparts without much difficulty.
“A helicopter may be invisible to radars because of the terrain. You pass over it without noticing, and then a rocket flies at you from behind.
“The Mi-28NM will easily knock down the American AH-64 Apache,” said the Russian pilot.