The famous Mil Mi-24 "Hind" helicopter stemmed from a Soviet Cold-War requirement for a heavily armed and armored transport helicopter following in the mold of the equally famous American Bell UH-1 "Huey" model. American activity in the Vietnam War considering their helicopter usage directly influenced the form and function of the Soviet design, developing one of the most iconic aircraft of its time. The type went on to see combat operations throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and continues on in a more assault-oriented role even today - despite its Cold War upbringing. The Hind remains a feared, flexible and proven battlefield implement. Its strengths have been formulated into the more potent Mil Mi-28 "Havoc" which is currently seeing deliveries to the Russian Army. While the Mi-28 is a more dedicated anti-tank platform developed specifically to combat enemy armor with crew and systems survivability as a priority, the Mi-24 - its days appearing numbered - still finds a use on the battlefields of today.
Origins and Development
Following the end of hostilities that was the Korean War, attention turned to the evolving nature of the battlefield as it related to the helicopter. The Korean War saw the first large-scale use of the helicopter in a variety of roles and the Soviet Army lacked any viable use of the vehicle type. War across Europe - should the Cold War ever go hot - would involve the coordination of thousands of troops coupled with air support and ground support to wage an effective war along multiple fronts. While armored vehicle carriers certainly had their place in Soviet doctrine, thought was given to move mechanized warfare into a new category by delivering a heavily armed assault helicopter capable of transporting combat-ready personnel into critical situations.
Various designs were tossed about with the Soviet firm of Mil heading the initiative. American involvement in the Vietnam War ushered in the new and viable concept of the armed helicopter as both transport and gunnery platform and Soviet authorities were convinced of a similar design. The Soviets initially took to arming their Mil Mi-4 "Hound" helicopters for the role but this was nothing more than an interim attempt. Mil - with founder Mikhail Mil in the lead role himself - eventually was tabbed for the endeavor and the ground work was laid for a competing armed helicopter of Soviet origin. The formal Soviet request occurred on May 6th, 1968 for a heavily armed and armored, twin-engine helicopter of great capability an survivability. The official Mil design (to be known as the Mi-24) was signed off in February of 1969.
Development of the new helicopter essentially stemmed from the strengths of Mil's preceding product - the Mi-8 "Hip". This included the engine arrangement as well as a slightly-modified main rotor attached to a two-person cockpit ahead of a passenger cabin. The fuselage was all-new in its design approach, intended to provide a much smaller head-on target to the enemy. The cockpit design saw the pilot and co-pilot seated in tandem under a joined glass cockpit, heavily framed and boxy in appearance.
First flight of a prototype occurred on September 19th, 1969, this days after a tethered prototype went airborne. These prototypes were eventually joined y ten developmental vehicles which eventually culminated in evaluations beginning June of 1970. This produced several design changes to the original arrangement (including flipping the direction of the tail rotor and adding the Hind-style ordnance-carrying wings to the mix). The type was finally accepted for serial production and formally introduced into Soviet military service in 1972 - beginning the legacy of what would become the most remembered and identifiable Soviet military machine of the Cold War and staff multitudes of inventories of Warsaw Pact nations. Its initial inception and ultimate global reach became a serious concern to NATO warplanners throughout the Cold War.
After some operational practice, the cockpit was redesigned to the more familiar Hind shape including two separate, stepped cockpits for better visibility and improved protection from ground-based fire. Additionally, the passenger-carrying quality was lessened as the attack role grew and munitions options took precedence over that of delivering troops to the field. The passenger cabin was later utilized for the carrying of "refill" AT-2 series "Swatter" anti-tank missiles. The changes - producing the well-known "Hind-D" line - helped the Hind grow its performance specifications while reducing its fragility in combat - particularly in the volatile low-level altitudes it was intended to operate in.
In taking the most widely-seen and accepted Hind helicopter form as our basis, the design is dominated by its stepped, two-person cockpit which seats the pilot in the rear and the gunner at the front. Each position is armored and covered over in heavy, framed bubble glass panels with the front-most gaining the benefit of windshield wiper blades to combat the elements. The glass panels were bulletproof against small arms fire. The pilot's cockpit door was set to open to starboard whilst the gunner's door opened to the portside. The engines are stacked above and behind the cockpit along the rather slim fuselage. The main rotor mast is low-mounted and powers a large, five-bladed main rotor system. The fuselage is slender and rounded along all facings. There is a oft-forgotten passenger cabin at the heart of the fuselage's layout, identified by its many vision ports. The empennage is set off by a high-mounted tail installation that delivers the shaft that powers the large, three-bladed tail rotor fitted to the portside of the aircraft. Horizontal planes are affixed to the rear sides of the tail section. The undercarriage is retractable and consists of a double-wheeled nose landing gear leg and a pair of single-wheeled main legs arranged in a three-point stance along the fuselage bottom. Armament is spread across three major underwing hardpoints. Each wing is mounted above and rear of the passenger areas and fit three hardpoint pylons, two inboard and one at the wing tip. Additional armament is fitted to the starboard fuselage side or, in some models, in an under-forward-fuselage gun mount. Additional optics and specialized equipment can be fitted to the forward fuselage as well.
Power for the Mi-24 is delivered through a pairing of 2 x Isotov TV3-117 series turbine engines, each delivering up to 2,200 horsepower. This provides the stout mount with a top speed of 208 miles per hour and an operational range nearing 280 miles. The maximum listed service ceiling for the aircraft is 14,750 feet, consistent with other helicopters in this class. Considering the weight of the Mi-24 at 18,740lbs (when empty), a fully-loaded 26,500lb Mi-24 is a non-too agile beast, taking away some of its combat effectiveness when used as a dedicated gunship.
Armament is the heart and soul of the Mi-24 series. A bevy of internal guns have been fitted to the family line throughout her evolution. This has included the four-barreled 12.7mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B Gatling gun and improved through the installation of a 30mm GSh-30K twin-barrel, fixed cannon. For more flexibility, a 23mm GSh-23L cannon was also fitted in a powered turret after combat operations dictated such a development. Additionally, suppression firepower can come in the form of general purpose machine guns mounted at the cabin windows (when in the armed assault role). External ordnance carrying remains the forte of the Hind family line. This includes the mounting of integrated cannon or machine gun pods, anti-tank guided missiles and rocket pods. Additionally, the Hind can utilized conventional drop bombs for strategic bombing of enemy emplacements.
The Hind helicopter series saw its baptism of fire in the 1977 Ogaden War (1977-1978) which involved Ethiopian elements pitted against Somali forces though the first major Soviet use of the machine was in the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghanistan War where Hinds operated in concert with low-flying Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" strike aircraft. The helicopter served in operations aimed at dislodging and disrupting rebel forces throughout the unforgiving Afghan terrain while being assigned to convoy transport and fire support missions as needed. The Mi-24 was designed specifically for such a conflict and made use of cannons, machine guns, rockets and conventional drop bombs in the regular sorties against its guerilla foe. While their heavy armament and armored systems proved well for the low-flying role at hand, these machines also proved vulnerable to low-altitude anti-aircraft systems - particularly the American-made, CIA-delivered FIM-92 "Stinger" short-ranged, surface-to-air missile. Despite high losses, Afghan rebels feared and respected the power of the Mi-24s and bestowed the rather terrifying nickname of "Satan's Chariot" to the helicopter. Despite the large Soviet commitment to the war effort, the Empire cut its losses in 1989. The last loss of life in the war occurred when an Mi-24 was shot down by Afghan rebels, its crew killed in the crash.
The next key showcase for the Mi-24 was in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. These forms were the Mi-25 export variant and fighting for the Iraqi military. The near-decade long conflict saw a massive loss of life on both sides with little ground being gained in either direction. While Hinds played a large role, their armament lacked the latest in available technology and were also susceptible to ground-based fire. A most infamous role undertaken by Mi-25s in the war were in the much-publicized chemical-based attacks on unarmed Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq. The conflict between the two Arab nations also saw the Mi-24 engage enemy aircraft including the recorded downing of an American-made Bell AH-1 Cobra and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II operated by the Iranians. Iraqi Mi-25s were put to use once again in the 1990 Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait, sparking the 1991 Persian Gulf War which resulted in a stellar Iraqi military defeat. Into the 1990s, the Hind garnered an increasing reputation through the Croatian War of Independence, the Chechnya Wars and other world-wide conflicts. In the latter part of the decade they also saw operations in the Kosovo War.
To a much more modern extent, the Mi-24 has continued strong use of force in both the Afghanistan invasion of 2001 and Iraqi invasion of 2003 following the events of 9/11. Polish Mi-24 mounts have been used in support of coalition forces and even delivered six of its own Hinds to the Afghan military. In the 2008 South Ossetia War, both the Russians and Georgians fielded their own Mi-24 systems - the Russians inevitably holding the advantage in the lop-sided conflict. The 2011 Arab uprising in Libya has seen Libyan leader Gaddafi utilize his powerful Hinds against rebel forces. Several are known to have been lost in the ensuing figting.
Hind Notable Operators and Production
The Mi-24 series, in all its varied forms, has seen extensive service outside of the Russian frontier. Key operators include (or have included) Afghanistan, Hungary, Libya, Mongolia and Venezuela. By far, Russia remains the largest operator of this helicopter type with some 360 currently in active service across the Air Force, Navy and Army branches. The United States has maintained a few Mi-24s for strictly adversary training. Many export versions may still be operational, have fallen to misuse or have been destroyed through countless conflicts. Of the 2,000 or so Mi-24 helicopters produced by Mil, some 600 of these have been delivered to export customers.
The Mi-24 has been produced in a plethora of notable variants though the reader should be made aware of the rather unconventional method used in Soviet/Russian designation practices due to translation. in the West, designations are usually formulated in an easier to understand numerical or alphabetic order - this varies some in the Soviet/Russian approach.
In a most basic approach, the Hind family line can be broken down into four major groups - the prototype forms and the "Hind-B", "Hind-A", "Hind-C", "Hind-D" and "Hind-F" models. The Hind-B lacked any nose armament and sported a dorsal swept R-860 UHF antenna stem. The requisite wingstubs were not given the characteristic anhedral slant common to most Hinds and the tail rotor system faced the starboard side of the aircraft. The Hind-A was fitted with a nose-mounted 12.7mm heavy machine gun, a camera gun in a portside wing root fairing with the tail rotor to the portside of the aircraft. The Hind-C lost its nose gun though introduced a chaff/flare dispenser in a "strap-on" fitting along the rear portion of the tail boom. The Hind-D brought about additional dorsal antenna works, a four-barreled powered chin turret (12.7mm heavy machine guns) and a U-section antenna for the R-828 Eucalyptus UHF system. It remains the most well-known and definitive attack version of the Hind family line. The Hind-F is a more refined gunnery platform bringing about a starboard-side mounted, fixed 30mm twin-barrel cannon.
"V-24" as used to designated the first prototype and developmental mounts numbering twelve in all. These were fitted with 2 x TV2-117A turboshaft engines of 1,700 horsepower each, these as seen fitted to the preceding Mil Mi-8 "Hip" series. Key to this early design was its lack of under-fuselage cannon and missile guidance technology. IFF antenna were fitted along the rear portion of the tail assembly under the vertical tail fin. A Doppler system was held under a flush dielectric fairing. Balance weights were noted along the low-set rotor hub at the main rotor mast. The tail rotor was set to the starboard side of the aircraft.
The initial production-quality version became the base Mi-24, known to NATO as "Hind-A" and were produced principally for the armed assault role. The Mi-24B designation (NATO "Hind-B") were Mi-24 production models modified to test the viability of various non-standard installations. The related production model was the Mi-24F ("Hind-A") series which introduced a revised APU exhaust system, repositioned IFF antenna installation and portside fuselage ribs.
The Mi-24A ("Hind-B") production series model followed the initial Mi-24 base models into service in 1972. These were differentiated from the former models by the lack of the original four-barreled heavy machine gun in the nose assembly. The Mi-24U ("Hind-C") designation was used to signify a dedicated training mount version of production-quality Hinds. These forms were simplified to an extent in that they lacked the nose-mounted armament and were completed without the wingtop weapon installation stations common to operational service types. The Mi-24BMT mark identified several production Mi-24 helicopters modified for mine warfare service, equipped with minesweeping equipment.
The Mi-24D ("Hind-D") appeared in 1973 and was similar in form to the original Mi-24 Hind armed assault models but was specifically strengthened for the attack helicopter role. This version saw much of the original design re-envisioned. The cockpit was now truly stepped with two segregated seat positions in an all-new forward fuselage design. While the passenger cabin was retained, the capabilities of the base Mi-24 system was substantially broadened for the attack role.
The Mi-24PTRK marked a slightly modified Mi-24D model meant to evaluate the "Shturm V" series radio-guided, anti-tank missile system (NATO AT-6 "Spiral") intended for the upcoming Mi-24V production model. The Mi-24DU was nothing more than a dedicated trainer variant of the Mi-24D attack model.
The Mi-24V proved the definitive attack variant of the Mi-24 line with over 1,500 delivered. These made use of the aforementioned Shturm V anti-tank missile series of which eight of these weapons could be mounted across the wing hardpoints. The Mi-24VM was the upgraded Mi-24V fitted with new avionics, weapons suite, communications facilities, new missile and cannon support and night operations capabilities.
The Mi-24P ("Hind-F") was a dedicated attack helicopter which did away with the original flexible, nose-mounted heavy machine gun and instead fitted a single fuselage-mounted 30mm GSh-30K series cannon in a fixed installation. These versions saw their various systems upgraded to produce the Mi-24P-2 mark. The similar Mi-24G ("Hind-F") also fitted a cannon system, this along the starboard side of the fuselage. The Mi-24PM was fitted with systems as found in the Mi-24VM production model but based on the Mi-24P design. The similarly-designated Mi-24PN was a dedicated attack platform fitted with FLIR and TV, Mi-28 style rotor blades and a fixed undercarriage. This version remains the most modern and recent Russian military Hind in service today.
The Mi-24TECh-24 was utilized to evaluate various qualities as related to allied aircraft recovery. This was a developmental model that did not experience serial production of note. The Mi-24VP ("Hind-E Mod") of 1989 saw the original nose-mounted machine gun installation replaced with a dual 23mm cannon fitting. Production ended after just 25 of the type were delivered.Mi-24VU ("Hind-E") production models were delivered to India and were based on the Soviet Mi-24V series. The Mi-24VF was a developmental platform used to evaluate a rear-facing machine gun installation intended to defend the more vulnerable rears of the aircraft when in flight.
A specialized NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) variant existed as the Mi-24RKhR ("Hind-G1") and operated in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. Alternative designations related to this version became the Mi-24R, Mi-24RK and Mi-24RKh (Rch) and production was limited. The Mi-24RR was developed from the Mi-24R model to assist in radiation detection, collection and in-the-field evaluation.
The Mi-24V production model saw new life in the improved and updated Mi-24RA ("Hind-G1 Mod"). The Mi-24K ("Hind-G2") was developed as a "lightened" Hind form intended for active battlefield reconnaissance sorties and as an artillery observation platform.
The Mi-24M mark identified an upgraded form of the original Mi-24 production model. The Mi-24VN ("Hind-E") was based on the Mi-24V with Mi-24VM changes though dedicated to night operations. The Mi-24PS was developed for use by security, police and commercial operators and fitted with a high-powered searchlight, external speaker system and FLIR. The Mi-24E was developed for use in environmental research and equipped with specialized systems for the role.
The Mi-25 designated export variants of the Mi-24D production form. Likewise, the Mi-35 designated export variants of the Mi-24V production form. Mi-35M marked export versions of the night-operations Hind. Mi-35M1 was another designation associated to this product. Venezuela received modernized forms of the Mi-35M as the Mi35M2. M-35M3 were export Mi-24VM models. Mexico took delivery of the Mi-35O, based on the Mi-24VN, and fitted with an indigenous developed FLIR system, digital glass cockpits and modernized avionics. The Mi-35P were export models of the Mi-24P production form. The Mi-35U was nothing more than a dedicated training version of the base Mi-35 series.
South Africa updated Mi-24s with Western-based equipment to make the "SuperHind" designations encompassing the Mk.II, Mk.III, Mk.IV and Mk.V marks. Israeli modified several Hinds to produce the Taman Mi-24 HMOSP upgrade.
Twelve Mi-35M Hind models were delivered to the rebuilding Iraqi forces from Russia.
Russia deployed the Mi-24 in the Syrian Civil War (2011 - Present) as part of its support of the current regime. The large helicopter has remained an active part of joint operations in the region since Russian involvement began and these mark a highly updated / advanced version of the original Cold War warrior.