Mi-24PN (P - gun (pushka), N - night)
The Russian military has selected the upgraded Mi-24PN to be their primary combat helicopter. The PN version has a TV and a FLIR camera located in a dome on the front of the aircraft. Other modifications include using the rotor blades and wings from the Mi-28 and fixed rather than retractable landing gear. The Russians received 14 Mi-24PNs in 2004 and plan on eventually upgrading all of their Mi-24s.
Upgrade of Mi-24P combatant helicopter into Mi-24PN version (P - gun (pushka), N - night) is performed at "Rostvertol" plant (Rostov-on-Don). The Mi-24PN is a continuation of the Mi-24VM program, a prototype of which carried out its first flight in 1999. THe Mi-24VM was more ambitious, but too expensive for the Russian Army. Mi-24PN is equipped with Raduga-III, a night observation sight system, integrated into a Zarevo infrared imager. The sight system includes a TV channel, a laser range finder, an azimuth finder's optical and mechanical unit, and a stabilizer. The new equipment enables a crew to acquire and identify targets at night and destroy them by firing both unguided and guided missiles. The helicopter also has an integrated radio electronics unit BREO-24 with multifunctional LCD?s, and GPS. More than 3.5 thousand Mi-24's of different versions were manufactured by defense industry of the USSR and Russia, including some 600 helicopters of Mi-24P series.
In February 2004 five upgraded Mi-24PN transport-combat helicopters were handed over to the RF Ministry of Defence. A commission of the Russian Air Force General Staff flew to Rostov-on-Don on 04 February 2004 to sign for the first five Mi-24PN?s, modernized combat helicopters. According to Colonel Alexander Drobyshevski, chief communications officer of the Russian Air Force, the helicopters were modernized by ?Rostvertol?, the Rostov company commissioned by the Russian Defense Ministry to carry out the modernization of Mi-24P gunship helicopter into Mi-24PN, a night-time combat helicopter designed to conduct operations under all weather conditions.
"Airmen have waited for this excellent chopper for a long time. The army aviation will significantly boost its battlefield efficiency by using this new equipment . The state test flights showed excellent performance characteristics of the machine. We're hoping to get more such helicopters in the future ," said Drobyshevski. The helicopters will enter service with the 4th Russian Air Force and Air Defense Army stationed in Northern Caucasia.
After an official commissioning by the Russian MOD of upgraded Mi-24PNs, some news media cast doubt on the national upgrade programme of the Russian Air Force helicopter fleet. They use unproved and dubious statements to describe the efficiency of new equipment and systems installed in upgraded battle ships. Of no small importance in the upgrade program is efficiency and cost. In this respect, the upgraded machines have advantages over existing compatibles in that their combat efficiency increased by the factor of 1.7 with low costs involved. And as a result of an overhaul reconditioning and upgrading the helicopter gets a full TBO of 1,000 hours/7-year service.
Unauthoritative is the "expert opinion" on the definition "night capability". Quote: ". a conventional combat helicopter cannot be turned to a "night-capability" aircraft by fastening the cumbersome night vision oculars to the pilot". The night vision goggle (ONV-1) are normally used by pilots at low levels. Moreover, they are comparable with western makes and those used by the French and American armies. The Mi-24PN is fitted with a navigational system and digital displays, a thermal-image sighting system designated ZAREVO that provide for a round-the-clock deployment of all weapons carried as well as a single-helicopter flying at low levels of maximum 50 metres.
So, the money was spent for the benefit of both the army and defence capability in general. And once the pilots have been trained at Torzhok, the Mi-24PN will be added to the arsenal of the Fourth Air Force and Air Defence Army deployed in the Northern Caucasia, so repeatedly to the press colonel-general V. Mikhailov, the Air Force commander-in-chief.
In 2004, deliveries of Mi-24PN and Mi-8MTKO upgraded helicopters continued. "Army Aviation has recently received Mi-24PN and Mi-8MTKO upgraded helicopters for operation. Further deliveries of this type helicopters for Air Force are planned for this year", - said General Vladimir Mikhailov, Air Force Commander, in his interview to "Interfax-AVN" agency. "But because of lack of funds, there is no possibility to perform mass re-equipping of Army Aviation. In such conditions, the special emphasis is laid on helicopter fleet upgrade with the purpose of its combat potential and flight safety improvement. At present, round-the-clock application helicopters Mi-8MTKO, Mi-24PN and others are being delivered to military units", - Commander said.
Mi-24PN upgraded transport-combat helicopters intended for accomplishing of night missions began to come on inventory of Russian Air Force, informed "Interfax - AVN" General Lieutenant Alexander Zelin, Aviation Chief, Deputy Air Force Commander. "Several Mi-24PN helicopters came on inventory of Air Force by now. Preparation of flight staff for these machines has begun", - said A. Zelin. According to him, "4th Army of Air Force and Air Defense which is located in North Caucasus Region will be provided in the first place". Deputy Air Force Commander characterized helicopters of this type as "combat machines with expanded abilities, improved precision characteristics able to destroy targets effectively round-the-clock". "Foreign Customers have been already interested in these helicopters", - stated A. Zelin.
The test batch of five Mi-24PN assault helicopters modernized by Rostvertol in Rostov-on-Don was tested in the 344th Army Aviation Pilot Training Center in Torzhok. The first military unit to receive production versions of the improved Mi-24PN in 2005 was the 487th Separate Helicopter Regiment in Budyonovsk near Chechnya.
The Mi-35PM and Mi-24PN abbreviations were in use at the stage of experimental works. At that stage there were several Mi-35 modified versions with various Russian avionics, new rotor system and new VK-2500 engines. By 2005 there were only two versions: Mi-24PN that was being delivered to operational units, and Mi-35M export version. The Mi-24PN is equipped with a fixed gun mount and standard rotor system and is rated for operations at night. The Mi-35M configuration has a moving gun mount installed in the fore section, type of sight and rotor system different from those of the Mi-28N. The Mi-35M is adapted for operation under conditions of elevated humidity, high temperature and high mountains. The use of "night hunter" rotor system makes possible to improve its performance in the operations under the above conditions. Depending on the received order, the Mi-35M can be delivered to the Russian Armed Fo0rces and the Mi-24PN for export. Such example is available: contract has already been signed and the Mi-24PN helicopters were supplied to Uganda.
In mid-September 2004, Russia announced that the Mi-28N attack helicopter was ready for series production and that first metal would be cut at the Rostov-on-Don plant very soon. The first production model helicopter was to be flown in mid 2005 and, in the second half of that year, was to be delivered to the Russian Air Force. At that time, by 2008 (2010 by some estimates), 50 Mi-28N helicopters were expected to be in service. By 2008, however, it looked like only 10 of the Mi-28N would be in service by 2010. Ultimately, the Russian Air Force was reported to want 300 Mi-28Ns by 2012, at which point the current force of modernized Mi-24PN helicopters was to gradually be withdrawn from service.
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