A Russian Mi-28 helicopter crashed in Syria Tuesday, according to a statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Its two crew members were killed, and the aircraft was said to have crashed because of technical reasons.
Reports on social media indicated that the helicopter, known in Russia as the Mi-28 Night Hunter and among NATO countries as the Havoc, is an advanced gunship that appears to have first arrived in Syria in November but has only recently been used extensively in combat. In late March, videos posted online showed the helicopter supporting Syrian army offensive operations in ISIS-held Palmyra.
The Mi-28, like the United States’ Apache gunship, was designed in the waning years of the Cold War. Similar to the Apache, it boasts a 30mm forward mounted cannon, and a slew of underwing armaments included guided and unguided missiles and rockets. The manufacturer’s website, Russian Helicopters, indicates that the Mi-28’s cockpit is reinforced with armor and shock absorbers to protect both crew members and is equipped with advanced sensors for day, night and inclement weather conditions. The Mi-28 can make speeds more than 150 mph and is used by a Russian air acrobatics team.
The gunship’s crash and continued deployment in Syria is indicative of Russia’s shift in battlefield operations after February’s promised cessation of hostilities, according to Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist in the Strategic Studies division of CNA and an associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
“Rather than conducting large scale airstrikes, the goal now is to provide close air support for the Syrian military as it seeks to gain more territory in ISIS controlled areas,” Gorenburg said in an email. Prior to the announcement of the cease-fire, Russian jets carried out numerous sorties a day, some of which targeted the Islamic State, though the majority struck Syrian opposition groups fighting in northern Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his country’s departure last month after deeming his campaign to prop up the fledgling Syrian military was successful. Russia’s initial intervention, however, was under the auspices of fighting the ISIS.
Satellite imagery released in late March indicates that Russia has roughly a dozen ground attack helicopters, including multiple Mi-28s, stationed at Al-Shayrat Air Base southeast of the Syrian city of Homs.
Source: Washington Post, April 12