The Mi-24 attack helicopter, which the soldiers called the ‘Crocodile’, stars in most films about the Afghan war. It carried a crew of three and eight passengers or four stretchers. A sinister-looking beast, it could mount a variety of formidable weapons to use against people, buildings, and armoured vehicles. The Mi-8 transport helicopter, the ‘Bee’, was the workhorse of the 40th Army. It came into service in 1967: more were said to have been produced than any other helicopter in the world. With a crew of three, it could carry twenty-four passengers, or twelve stretchers, or a load of three thousand kilograms. Little more than a decade after the Soviet war was over, the Americans hired Mi-8s to supply their special forces because they were particularly well adapted to operate in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan. The aircraft were flown by Russians – sometimes by the same men who had flown them during the Soviet war. But this time they were flown not by military crews but – because Russia was now a capitalist country – by the employees of a commercial company called, appropriately enough, Vertical-T. When one of these helicopters was shot down in 2008, the Russian Ambassador in Kabul contacted the Taliban for the return of the bodies. ‘You mean they were Russians?’ said the Taliban. ‘We thought they were Americans. Of course you can have them.’
Designed by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, the Mi-8/17 series the most successful in the history of Russia’s helicopter industry. Mi-8/17 series helicopters have won respect and admiration from helicopter operators around the world thanks to their advanced flight capabilities, high level of reliability and adaptability, ability to operate in a wide range of climatic conditions (from -50 to +50 degrees Celsius) and ease of operation and maintenance.
The Mi-8/17 boasts an ever-expanding range of operational capabilities thanks to Russian Helicopters’ ongoing upgrade programmes. The helicopters can be fitted with a wide range of additional equipment to tackle a variety of missions.
The basic Mi-8/17 model is the cargo helicopter, which can transport up to 4,000 kg of various kinds of cargo either inside the cabin or on an external sling.
The passenger helicopter can carry up to 26 passengers. The helicopter boasts low levels of noise and vibration, is fitted with cabin climate-control systems, and has emergency exits that meet the latest safety standards. Everything is designed to ensure passenger in-flight comfort and safety.
The VIP model is designed to accommodate 7-14 passengers with enhanced levels of comfort. The helicopter’s interior is customisable to customers’ needs and wishes. The helicopter boasts the largest cabin in its class, and is ideally suited to luxury-class equipment. The VIP model can be fitted with entertainment systems, satellite links and special communications equipment in line with client needs.
The search-and-rescue model can fly search-and-rescue operations around the clock in all weathers. The helicopter is fitted with special equipment including searchlights, winches, speakers and radiolocation systems. This model is used by Emergencies Ministries in countries across the world.
The Mi-8/17 flying hospital is designed to offer medical assistance in remote and hard-to-access regions. Special on-board equipment provides life support and first aid to patients during the journey to hospital. Special sheeting used inside the cabin can be disinfected quickly and to high medical standards.
The firefighting model is designed to tackle blazes using a helicopter bucket on an external sling, which can deliver up to 4,000 litres of water and target the burn zone with a high degree of accuracy. The helicopter can also deliver firefighting crews and special equipment to firefighting areas.
Mi-8/17 helicopters are built at Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant and the Kazan Helicopters, both Russian Helicopters companies. More than 12,000 Mi-8/17 helicopters have been produced to date – a record for twin-engine helicopters anywhere in the world. They have been supplied to more than 100 countries worldwide and racked up total flying time of about 100 million hours.
The following models are currently in production: Mi-8AMT, Mi-8MTV-1, Mi-171, Mi-171A1 and Mi-172.
On June 9, 1961, the first Mi-8 Hip prototype, with a single AI-24V turboshaft and four-bladed main rotor system, lifted off for its maiden flight. On September 17, 1962, the Hip B, modified with two TV2-117 1,482-horsepower turboshafts mounted atop the fuselage, and a five-bladed main rotor system measuring 70 feet in diameter, took flight. The Mi-8 went into full production in 1965, and by 2000 fifty-four countries operated the more than 10,000 Mi-8s manufactured by the Rostov and Kazan production facilities in Russia and by foreign licensees. Designed as a medium-lift transport helicopter, the Hip, in its many variants, fulfilled a miscellany of mission requirements, including troop and cargo transportation, air ambulance, attack helicopter, airborne command post, fire fighter, and civilian carrier.
Constructed of light alloys, the Hip featured a “bus-shaped” fuselage with a rounded nose and glassed-in cockpit that accommodated a pilot, copilot, and flight engineer. The cabin housed twenty-four passengers, 8,800 pounds of cargo, or twelve stretchers. A large sliding door on the forward port side and rear-opening clamshell doors simplified loading large cargo. Removable interior seats and an internal winch capable of lifting 350 pounds that doubled as a rescue hoist facilitated cargo handling. Additionally, Mil equipped the aircraft with a cargo hook capable of carrying slingloads up to 6,500 pounds. A long tailboom extended from the upper portion of the fuselage and swept up to a tapered vertical fin that housed the gearbox and tailrotor, attached to the left side (right on the export versions).
External racks attached along the center of the 61-foot fuselage were designed to hold auxiliary fuel pods or weapons systems. Variants of the Hip carried a combination of 57-mm or 80-mm rockets, AT-2 Swatter or AT-3 Sagger ATGMs, 12.7- or 23-mm gun pods, or either 4 500-pound or 2 1,000-pound bombs. In 1967, Mil introduced the Hip E and F ground support helicopters, each mounting a flexible 12.7-mm heavy machine gun under the nose and carrying 192 57-mm rockets. Combat troops could also fire their individual weapons from the windows of the helicopter. In later models Mil installed the upgraded Isotov TV2-117A engines, which produced 1,700 horsepower each. Generally a Hip cruised at 122 knots, had a service ceiling of 14,700 feet, and hovered Out of Ground Effect (OGE) at 2,600 feet. All Mi-8s rested on a fixed tricycle landing gear, with dual wheels at the nose. Total production estimates ran as high as 15,000 units of the Mi-8 and its export version, the Mi-17.
Designed to replace Mi-4, first flown in June 1961; used by Soviet and Russian forces and Aeroflot. Military versions denoted by round windows and armed with machine guns and 57-mm rockets. Later version designed and equipped for ECM operations. Introduced in August 1975, Mi-17 employed Mi-8 fuselage and Mi-14 engines; latest version with upgraded engines is Mi-17 Hip H.
More than 10,000 of all variants manufactured.
Crew: 3 (two pilots and one engineer)
Capacity: 24 troops / 12 stretchers / 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) cargo internally / 5,000 kg (11,023 lb) externally slung.
Length: 18.465 m (60 ft 7 in)
Height: 21.25 m (69 ft 9 in)
Empty weight: 7,489 kg (16,510 lb)
Gross weight: 11,100 kg (24,471 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 13,000 kg (28,660 lb) normal
13,500 kg (29,762 lb) with under-slung load
Powerplant: 2 × Klimov VK-2500PS-03 turboshaft engines, 1,800 kW (2,400 hp) each for take-off
2,000 kW (2,700 hp) emergency rating
Main rotor diameter: 21.25 m (69 ft 9 in)
Main rotor area: 354.7 m2 (3,818 sq ft)
Blade section:NACA 23012
Maximum speed: 280 km/h (170 mph, 150 kn)
Cruise speed: 260 km/h (160 mph, 140 kn)
Range: 800 km (500 mi, 430 nmi)
Service ceiling: 6,000 m (20,000 ft)
Hover ceiling OGE: 4,000 m (13,123 ft)
Rate of climb: 8 m/s (1,600 ft/min)
up to 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) of disposable stores on six hardpoints, including bombs, rockets and gunpods.