By Bijan Razzaghi
The Mi-28 Havoc has seen combat the last three years over Iraq in Syria being employed by both the Russian Aerospace Force and Iraqi Army Aviation. Notable battles included the battle of Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul as well as Palmyra and Aleppo. The Mi-28 was originally designed in the 1980s by the Soviet Air Force,unveiled to the public in the 1989 Paris Air Show the aircraft boasted heavy payloads, high speed and maneuverability. Despite these features the Soviet Air Force then chose the Ka-50 Hokum that was introduced in 1995. Development of the Mi-28 continued which resulted in the introduction of the Mi-28N Night Hunter first flown in 1996. The Russian Air Force then decided to introduce it into service along with the KA-52 in 2006.
The Havoc’s initial combat debout was in Iraq in 2015 when Iraqi Army Aviation Havocs provided close air support for ground forces in Ramadi. The Mi-28s sensors allowed for the aircraft to engage targets with its 2A42 30mm cannon and AT-16 anti tank missiles from higher alltiudes and farther away from small arms fire and RPGs. Havocs were able to utilize the 2A42 30mm cannon against fixed fighting positions and fortifications using armoured piercing rounds. The AT-16 missile was also employed against vehicles, and fixed fighting positions. During operations in Iraq no Mi-28Ns were lost to enemy fire.
The Russian Aerospace Force employed the Mi-28N over Syria against IS forces as well as anti Assad Rebel forces. The Mi-28Ns were used to provide close air support for Russian, Syrian and Iranian ground forces. The aircraft engaged heavy weapons including 23mm anti aircraft systems. In one case an Mi-28 sustained a direct hit to the crew compartment, no crew members were wounded. During operations over Syria the Mi-28N operated in dusty conditions against both AAA and MANPADs without sustaining any losses.
Iraqi Mi-28Ns take off for a mission against IS in Al Anbar province
The combat performance proved the aircrafts reliability in harsh conditions against both unconventional and conventional stye weapons. This performance increased the interest of potential buyers as well as the continued interest in existing customers. Iraq is likely to seek more Mi-28s along with Algeria. In addition the Mi-28N is likely to sell in the South East Asian and African markets that tend to purchase from both western and eastern suppliers such as Malaysia and Indonesia who currently operate a mix of Russian, American and European aircraft. In these markets the Mi-28N Havoc would compete directly with the AH-64E Apache Guardian. The African market can see possible interest coming from Nigeria who has already purchased the Mi-35 Hind, the Mi-28N could be an addition to the countries attack helicopter force for use against Boko Haram. Other potential customers in Africa include Ethiopia whose military is based on Russian standard equipment might see the Havoc as a useful option for the potential fight with Al Shabab in Somalia. The sales in both the African and South Asian market are likely to be small with just a squadrons worth of helicopters or less with the exception Algeria and Egypt who possess larger defense budgets.
An early model Mi-28A conducts an aerial demonstration
The Mi-28N Havocs competitive capabilities include both payload and armour being able to carry up to 4000 lb (1814 kg) of ordinance. In addition the aircrafts price is is half of that of the Its competitor the AH-64E Apache coming in at between $15-$20 million. This is at the expense of the AH-64Es sophisticated avionic package which include the TADS/PNVS which can detect threats visual far out of the range of enemy fire for the first shot first kill advantage. Shortcomings such as these likely led to India choosing the AH-64E over the Mi-28N.