Monster Machines: The Flying Russian Crocodile Can Fight And Flee

Most helicopters are designed to either carry a lot of cargo at the expense of manoeuvrability -- like the Chinook -- or be quick and nimble while sacrificing armament and transport capabilities, like the Huey. Russia's Mi-24 HIND multi-mission gunship isn't "most helicopters".

The Mil Mi-24 is a dual-role helicopter gunship designed as both a attack helicopter and eight-troop/four-litter transport. The Soviet Union produced more than 2500 HIND variants at the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant beginning in 1972 and used them extensively through out the Soviet War in Afghanistan. The concept of a multi-mission gunship was quite revolutionary at the time of its inception and even today, the HIND has no direct NATO equivalent and is only roughly recreated in the American Sikorsky S-67 Blackhawk.

The HIND was built off the older Mi-8 Hip and Mi-14 Haze helicopters hand measures 17m long, 6m wide and 6m tall. The HIND wasn't built for comfort, it was built for speed. It features a pair of top-mounted Isotov TV3-117 turboshaft engines driving a 17m wide, five-blade main rotor with a three-blade on the tail. Its top speed is over 320km/h with a 450km range. Early models had the pilot and weapons operator sitting in tandem under a single piece of bulletproof glass; later upgrades introduced the now iconic "double bubble" canopy. The HIND is heavily fortified against small and medium arms fire, able to shrug off .50 calibre shots -- even to its rotor blades -- and withstand 20mm cannon hits thanks to ballistic-resistant windscreens and a titanium-wrapped cockpit tub. What's more, the cabin interior is overpressurised in the event of a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) attack. This heavy armour earned the Mi-24 the unofficial nickname "the flying tank" though many Soviet pilots also referred to it as the "Crocodile" thanks to its camouflage pattern.

The Mi-24 didn't just fly around taking it on the nose mind you -- this is a proper assault chopper. It relies on a 1470-round 12.7mm Gatling gun, a pair of twin-barrel GSh-30K autocannons and window-mounted machine guns in the cabin. The Hind is also outfitted with a pair of stub wings that not only provide up to a quarter of the aircraft's lift when travelling at speed but also provide three attachment points for a variety of external weapons, depending on whether the mission calls for air support, troop insertions, anti-tank operations or aerial combat. These external stores can include 3M11 Falanga anti-tank missiles, various general-purpose bombs (up to 500kg in weight) and rockets.

[English Russia, Air Force Technology, Wikipedia - FAS]

Pictures: Igor Dvurekov, Radomil