Pakistan and Russia recently signed a landmark defence deal for the purchase of Mi-35M (NATO reporting name Hind-E) helicopters — a versatile helicopter gunship with troop carrying capabilities.
The Mi-35M is a comprehensive upgrade of the Mi-24V, and brings to the battlefield a whole range of capabilities. Produced by Rostvertol, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters, it is offered as an export variant of the Mi-24.
Primarily designed for attack missions, and a secondary capability enabling military transport missions, the helicopter delivers superior flight performance characteristics and manoeuvrability when compared to its predecessors.
The famous Mi-24, made its name by instilling the fear of God in every adversary that faced it on the battlefield. It is also easy and cheap to maintain, a critical consideration for combat aircraft.
The export version, which Pakistan will be acquiring, incorporates several improvements over the earlier Mi-24 models.
The cockpit and vital components are protected by titanium armour, part of the reason the Hind series is referred to as the ‘flying tank’. It has new main rotors with a better aerodynamic profile. A new X-shaped tail rotor has also been incorporated, replacing the earlier three-blade rotor. The characteristic stub wings of the Hind have been shortened, but still retain their ability to carry large amounts of rockets and guided missiles.
Avionics have also received a major update with the new export model of the Hind. The cockpit is now night vision capable, with new and improved Multi Functional Displays (MFD). The sensor package has received a major upgrade too, giving the helicopter the ability to engage in combat operations at any time of the day, in all weather conditions.
The turboshaft engines have been improved and are now more powerful, making the Mi-35 perfectly suitable for operations in our tribal areas and other high altitude areas of operation.
Reach out and touch a ‘friend’
Let’s face it — the Mi-35 is a combat helicopter primarily, with transport duties a secondary function. The helicopter can carry a wide range of weaponry which includes anti-tank guided missiles, unguided rocket pods, short range air to air missiles, gun pods and free fall bombs.
As the Mi-35 was built to destroy enemy armoured vehicles and anything else that was unfortunate enough to come in its way, it is armed with Ataka or the older Shturm anti-tank guided missiles.
The Ataka has a range of up to 8 kilometres, hence giving it the perfect ability to reach out and touch a ‘friend’. It can also carry 80 80mm rockets or 20 122mm rockets. The Hind-E also has a twin-barrelled 23mm gun, and one has to be extremely unlucky to be on the receiving end of the gun.
Excellent choice for Pakistan
The Mi-35 will be an excellent addition to the attack helicopter fleet flown by Pakistan Army Aviation.
With ageing AH-1 Cobras, Army Aviation was in need for more modern combat helicopters. Although only four Mi-35s have been ordered, they will form the backbone of a more modern attack helicopter wing, and the possibility always exist for further orders in the future.
The troop carrying ability of the Hind-E can also be used in a number of ways. For one, the helicopter can be used to insert Special Service Group (SSG) personnel onto dominating heights in our current areas of operation, from where they can provide vital surveillance on surrounding areas or provide covering fire to other elements manoeuvring in the valleys below.
Indian reservations that the acquisition of the Mi-35 will alter the balance of power in the region are absurd, for a country that has recently worked out the acquisition of AH-64 Apache gunships from the US; four helicopters will not make a difference in the larger scheme of things.
On the other hand, Pakistan will benefit greatly, and Army Aviation will have sharpened its talons further.