Russian Army Mi-35 and Mi-8 Helicopters Assault Ukrainian Command Post: Destroy Nearby Armour

Russian Army Aviation Mi-35 helicopters were reported on July 1 to have been deployed for an assault on a Ukrainian command post, neutralising nearby armour and destroying the site itself. The Russian Defence Ministry reported regarding the attack “As a result of ongoing combat tasks, the camouflaged command posts and armoured hardware of Ukrainian army units have been wiped out.” The helicopters were deployed in the immediate vicinity of the line of engagement, and accompanied by a fire support team on a Mi-8 carrying gunners and a medic. The Mi-8 was tasked with providing covering fire for the Mi-35 crew and recovering any downed crewmen in the event of emergencies, according to the Defence Ministry statement. Mi-35s have not played as prominent a role as the Ka-52 and Mi-28 attack helicopters, which particularly from early June began to take a major toll on Ukrainian armour as Kiev attempted to launch a major offensive against Russian forces. All three classes were produced in parallel in the 2010s, used extensively in combat in the Syrian theatre, and were designed to e able to provide fire support to Russian motor rifle brigades. The Mi-35 differs, however, in that it serves as a transport as a secondary role rather than purely a dedicated attack helicopter, and that it is not a clean sheet 21st century helicopter design but rather a modernised derivative of the Soviet Mi-24 that served during the Cold War. 

The Mi-24 entered service in the late Cold War years, and alongside its American counterpart the AH-64 Apache was considered the most capable attack helicopter of its time. Where NATO members did not develop a successor to the Apache, leaving modernised variants of it today as the most capable attack helicopters in the Western world, the Mi-24 although still highly potent was succeeded by the Mi-28 and Ka-52. Mi-24s nevertheless still play a central role in the Russian Armed Forces, with the design remaining in production today as the Mi-35 and being highly popular among foreign clients as it is both significantly less costly and more versatile than the dedicated attack helicopters. Eleven foreign countries have acquired MI-35s since the class began to be offered abroad in the early 2000s, with over 180 having been exported most recently to Belarus in the first quarter of 2023. This builds on the legacy of the Mi-24 which was already the most widely operated attack helicopter class in the world, which itself built on the success of the Mi-8 transport which is by far the most widely used military helicopter class of any type. The latest Mi-35M variant began deliveries to Russian Army Aviation in 2011, and alongside new avionics and an up-rated Klimov VK-2500-02 engine it borrows significant features from the new generation specifically the Mi-28 including use of an X-shaped low-noise tail rotor. The performance advantages this provides pair well with its new main rotor hub and composite blades. Alongside the Mi-24P, the Mi-35 remains the closest counterpart in Russia to modernised Apaches in NATO fleets, albeit still in a league below the Mi-28 and Ka-52 particularly in terms of their armaments and flight performances.