A New Era For Belarusian Rotary Aviation: First New Russian Mi-35 Attack Helicopters Delivered

The Belarusian Armed Forces have received the first batch of Mi-35 attack helicopters from Russia, with an imminent delivery long having been reported but not confirmed. The Belarusian Defence Ministry Press Service reported: “Belarusian pilots are flying the first batch of Mi-35 helicopters that have been put into service in the Belarusian army. The helicopters were received in accordance with the plan of construction and development of the armed forces and military-technical development with the Russian Federation.” The delivery comes as Belarus has acquired multiple prominent new weapons systems from Russian intended to enhance its aerial warfare and strike capabilities, including Su-30SM fighter aircraft, Iskander-M ballistic missile systems and S-400 air defence systems. The commander of the Belarusian Air and Air Defence Forces Andrey Lukyanovich confirmed in February that the country would receive a full squadron of Mi-35M helicopters, although he claimed at the time which the first four would be deployed within the first quarter of the year. Any possible delays may have been caused by Russian production lines prioritising deliveries to the country’s own armed forces for war in Ukraine, or possibility due to unforeseen difficulties in training Belarusian personnel to operate the aircraft. It is also possible that the commander had referred to deliveries for the beginning of training by Belarusian personnel within Russia before the aircraft were deployed to Belarusian soil. 

Belarus’ attack helicopter fleet is currently comprised of modernised Mi-24 helicopters inherited from the Soviet Union, with the aircraft playing an important role in military planning and reportedly retaining high degrees of combat readiness. The aircraft played prominent roles during heightened tensions with NATO members in late 2020 in demonstrating the military’s resolve. The Mi-35M represents a heavily enhanced derivative of the design which benefits from significant commonality with its predecessor, and was acquired in large numbers by Russian Army Aviation in the 2010s and used successfully in offensives in Ukraine. The aircraft is not purely an attack helicopter like the more costly Mi-28 and Ka-52 platforms, and can also serve as a troop transport in a limited capacity. The delivery of the new assets comes as tensions with neighbouring Poland have continued to rise, with Warsaw significantly expanding personnel deployments to its border with Belarus and investing very heavily in new arms acquisitions from the United States and South Korea including enhanced variants of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters – which entered service as a broad Western Bloc equivalent to the Mi-24 during the Cold War.