Undisclosed number of RuAF Mi-28N choppers are deployed in Donetsk

Reports from January 9 reveal that the Russian Army has sent out Mi-28N attack helicopters to dismantle Ukrainian bases and assault troop gatherings in Donetsk. The depths of the operations remain unclear, as the Defence Ministry confirmed that “all targets were destroyed,” but fell short of detailing the scale of the offensive or the type of weapons deployed. 

Russia sends Mi-28NM with Ataka ATGM against Leopard and Abrams
Photo credit: Military Watch Magazine

Donetsk has been a hotbed of intense conflict, with recent reports from January 7 stating that Ukrainian forces suffered a substantial loss of over 300 soldiers in less than a day. These reports align with the influx of Ukrainian sources also documenting the escalating fatality rates, notably among their draft troops. 

Disadvantageous Ukrainian position

The deficiency in Ukraine’s surface-to-air missile reserves puts frontline units at a disadvantage, lacking proper defense mechanisms. This void allows the enemy forces’ attack helicopters and fighter jets to exploit, supplementing Russia’s substantial and mounting firepower superiority. Coupled with their artillery and surface-to-surface missiles, the pressure surmounts against the Ukrainian frontline units. 

Ukraine’s ammunition limitations in recent months have significantly reduced their artillery units’ resistance capabilities, including their premier mechanized brigades necessitating to decrease in ammunition usage due to severe shortages. Expectations for the situation to worsen are high, given the cessation of American military aid after the last arms package was delivered in December. 

Russian Mi-28

Russia’s Mi-28 is a modern attack helicopter, succeeding the Soviet-era Mi-24, which is regarded as comparable to NATO’s top attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache. The latest involvement of these helicopters in Ukraine is a significant point of concern.

US sanctions move production of Russian attack helos to the Mideast - mil mi-28
Photo credit: The Modelling News

While the United States chose to modernize its existing Apache, Russia opted to generate entirely new helicopter models for the 21st century, the MI-28 and the Ka-52. This bold venture has endowed them with numerous advantages over international competitors. 

Mi-28 armament

Each MI-28 possesses an impressive payload, capable of wielding up to 16 anti-tank missiles or 80 80mm rockets. They showcase distinguished flight capabilities, highlighted by their unique ability to soar backward. When compared to the Apache, they demonstrate superior firepower, enhanced survivability, and a simpler maintenance process. 

In the battlegrounds of Ukraine, the MI-28 is predominantly armed with 80mm and 122mm rockets alongside the 9M120 Ataka and LMUR anti-tank guided missiles. The first recorded use of the LMUR missile was in January 2023, offering a 15km range and integrating inertial, satellite, and optical guidance for impeccable accuracy. 

The most recent iteration of Russia’s premier attack helicopter, the Mi-28NM, was combat tested in the counterinsurgency operations in Syria starting in 2016. The formidable performance displayed in these operations is believed to have significantly influenced the Defence Ministry’s decision to sign contracts for the procurement of an additional 98 units by 2027.

About Mi-28NM 

Russia sends Mi-28NM with Ataka ATGM against Leopard and Abrams
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Key upgrades to the Mi-28NM include the integration of VK-2500P engines, increasing speed by 13 percent, the addition of all-around visibility sensors, and improvements to the firing controls and air-to-air capabilities. 

In 2023, the Russian Army’s Mi-28 and Navy’s Ka-52 attack helicopters gained significant traction against Ukrainian armor from June 2022 onwards. This was in response to a large-scale offensive launched by the Ukrainian Military and affiliated paramilitary forces against Russian installations.  

On August 7, Sergey Chemezov, the head honcho of Rostec, which is a state-owned defense behemoth, announced a huge leap in their production of military helicopters in 2022 under the State Defence Order. An impressive tally of 296 helicopters rolled off the production line, more than double the 134 produced the previous year. That’s a hefty 55% surge in production.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.

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