Russia creates ‘winged infantry’ with Ka-52, Mi-28 and tanks

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The Russian military’s landing troops are expected to receive substantial reinforcements in the form of helicopters and tanks. This decision, as informed by sources within the nation’s Ministry of Defense to the publication “Izvestia”, is marked by the formation of new army aviation divisions within the Air Force and an increased count of tank units. 

Photo credit: Rosoboronexport

The ‘Blue Berets,’ one of several designations for Russian airborne forces, will be equipped with a fleet of Ka-52, Mi-28, and state-of-the-art Mi-8AMTSh-VN helicopters. Alongside this, the number of tanks within their ranks will see a notable uptick. Noteworthy, this strategic enhancement is shaped heavily by the lessons derived from Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, to amplify the effectiveness of its so-called “winged infantry”.

New opportunities

The Air Force will see the addition of new army aviation units, along with an upsurge in tank units. The aviation element will be updated with Ka-52 and Mi-28 attack helicopters, both of which have demonstrated their effectiveness during the special operation in Ukraine. Moreover, the paratroopers will be upgraded with the latest Mi-8AMTSh-VN attack transport helicopters. 

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Sources recall the initial plans of creating a brigade entirely with army aviation within the Airborne Forces, before the beginning of the Northern Military District. These plans, once abandoned, are now being reconsidered. 

In a previous discussion with “Izvestia”, Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov, the Airborne Forces Commander, conceded that with the use of army aviation helicopters, airborne units can efficiently combat highly mobile formations of a potential foe, “in varying physical and geographical settings,”, independent of the availability of an airport network. 

He further stated that employing army aviation significantly lessens the likelihood of landing troops being targeted by enemy fire, enhances movement speed, and broadens the range of fighters’ delivery to the desired location. 

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Colonel Valery Yuriev, Chairman of the Union of Russian Paratroopers, revealed to Izvestia an experimental new formation used during pre-operation drills. He explains, “Helicopter units were supplied, similar to those which were planned to be introduced to the staff. The maneuvering and firepower of the paratroopers increased significantly as a result of these drills. The idea of this formation is promising.” 

The Colonel also noted the actual usage of landing units, stating that they are mostly not used as intended – for enemy rear-landings, as per a military expert. 

Reflecting on the special operation in Ukraine, he noted, “A tactical landing in Gostomel is our true element. Currently, the Airborne Forces are deployed as motorized rifle units. Tanks are their primary firepower, guaranteeing results. Storming enemy fortresses armed with only machine guns is unfeasible.” 

Viktor Murakhovski, a military expert, believes that it’s time to fortify the Airborne Forces, and shared this perspective with Izvestia, including lessons learned from the Northern Military District. 

Photo credit: Military Watch Magazine

He stated, “The production of various Ka-52, Mi-28, and Mi-8 helicopters, as well as tanks, has increased. These helicopters would enable Paratroopers to conduct effective landing operations at shallow depths. Tanks, along with heavy infantry fighting vehicles and artillery, remain one of the critical forces in ground operations to assist paratroopers in breaching prepared defenses and reaching the tactical landing’s depth. Furthermore, the artillery of the Airborne Forces and the Ground Forces are receiving new automated fire control systems. These will allow even more effective target engagement. All this technology, collectively, will enhance the abilities of the Airborne Forces.” 

Terrible newcomer

A relatively new addition to the aviation scene, the Mi-8AMTSh-VN helicopter is set to be acquired by paratroopers. This follows the signing of a supply contract for the first ten units at the 2019 Army Forum.

This helicopter model is broadly equipped for versatile use, boasting extensive combat and landing capabilities. Thus, making it ideal for special forces and airborne units. Its upgraded engine modification also sets it a cut above its predecessors, allowing for reliable use round-the-clock and independent of weather conditions. 

The Mi-8AMTSh-VN helicopter brings to the table an impressive arsenal apt for both air and ground targets. Its external suspension can accommodate two 12.7-mm machine guns, unguided missile units as well and gun containers. 

A noteworthy feature of the aircraft is its advanced surveillance and guidance system. This supports the use of Ataka anti-tank missiles and aerial bombs as well. 

Photo credit: Russian MoD

Customization of weaponry width regarding assigned tasks extends the helicopter’s range of targets. It can effectively combat ground equipment, armored vehicles, and other helicopters. 

Other dependable names in the field are the Ka-52 and Mi-28 helicopters, both equipped for battles against armored vehicles and manpower on the battlefield. The Ka-52, also known as a “workhorse”, prides itself on resilience and dependability, and is fitted with a 30 mm cannon, unguided anti-aircraft missiles, Whirlwind anti-tank missiles, aerial bombs, and other weaponry. 

The Mi-28NM distinguishes itself as an all-weather, anytime helicopter. Showcasing premium efficiency, it advances past prior-generation vehicles. The previous requirement for a Mi-24 connection to solve issues is now bypassed with the help of just a few machines. 

The Military Aviation’s Ka-52M and Mi-28NM helicopters are now equipped with the new “product 305”, a light multi-purpose guided missile. Both these helicopters have shown impressive synchrony in operations as evidenced by the SVO [Russia calls SVO the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine].

Photo credit: Russian MoD

Heavy but super mobile

In the years preceding the advent of the Northern Military District, armed forces decision-makers opted for a novel strategy for their “blue berets” usage. Air assault units, heavier than the previously engaged airborne divisions, were given a new lease of life, equipped with an arsenal of tanks, artillery, and unmanned aerial vehicles [UAV]. 

Advancing to 2021, pioneering battalions began to materialize within the ranks of the Airborne Forces. According to the new modus operandi, airborne troops are expected to alight from helicopters and be battle-ready instantly. 

Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov

Notably, these units’ presence offers the tactical advantage of rapidly marshaling forces to an area least anticipated by the adversary, catching them off guard. 

At present, there is a concentrated effort to reform the Russian Air Force. This involves reevaluating their scope and deployment strategies, an undertaking of significant magnitude. 

During the era of the Soviet Union, the “blue berets” were indoctrinated for mass landing operations in European war theaters. The mandate for the airborne divisions and regiments was to paratroop behind enemy lines. Their primary mission is to launch prompt yet potent attacks on pivotal enemy targets, curbing potential reinforcement to the frontline. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

However, the “winged infantry” of the Soviet era had an observable drawback, the dearth of heavy weaponry and equipment. This deficiency persisted in the post-Soviet period, as airborne units functioned as skilled light infantry in localized conflicts. The strategically important Airborne Forces are now slated for substantial reinforcements.


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