Russia has been working tirelessly to modernise its military might and has already revealed some seriously intimidating firepower over the past few years. Now they’re working to replace the devastating Mi-24 HIND with something even more terrifying armament — Russia’s version of the AH-64 Apache, the Mi-28 Night Hunter.
The Mi-28 is purpose-built for search-and-destroy missions against tanks, troops, and enemy positions. Development of the Mi-28 began in the early 1970s, just after the USSR debuted the HIND. But unlike its 8-passenger predecessor, the three-person Mi-28 was built for speed and attack power (and occasionally picking up downed flight crews) rather than occasional troop transport. And while it completed flight trials by 1984, Soviet top brass opted to use the Karmov Ka-50 chopper as the USSR’s primary tank hunter-killer. The Mi-28 languished in R&D purgatory until the mid-1990s. After a few more years of on-again-off-again development, given the reduced importance of anti-tank helicopters in the post-Cold War era, the Russian Federation declared that the Mi-28 and Ka-50 its attack helicopter platforms for the foreseeable future.
The latest iteration of the Mi-28, designated the Mi-28N “Night Hunter”, measures 17m long with an equivalent rotor diameter. A pair of 2200hp Isotov TV-3-117VM turboshaft engines drive the five-blade prop and hurtle the two-man crew (a pilot in the rear cockpit and a the navigator/weapons operator up front) to speeds topping 172 knots (319km/h) over a distance of 108nmi (200km).
The Night Hunter isn’t just fast. It’s smart. The chopper’s integrated avionics allow it to perform automated Nape-of-the-Earth manoeuvres to avoid radar detection, even in inclement weather. The Mi-28N also features a helmet-mounted target acquisition and tracking system similar to that found aboard the new Eurofighter as well as millimetre wave radar capable of detecting ground targets over 10km away, FLIR and optical cameras.
And once the Night Hunter finds you, it’s curtains. It carries more than 2300kg of ammo including a combination of 16 anti-tank missiles (i.e. the AT-6 Spiral and AT-9 Spiral 2), two pods packed with 80mm and 122mm rockets, and a 900-round-a-minute 2A42 30mm cannon. Slugs exit this gun barrel at over 1000m/s, making 2A42 the most powerful ever installed on a helicopter.
As of 2011, Russia has deployed 16 units though that figure is expected to rise to more than 130 units by 2020. Combined with the expected 150 or so Ka-50s already on order, Russia’s fleet sure seems to be ready for some sort of confrontation. One that you don’t want to be on the other side of.