During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States were in a constant fight to one-up each other when it came to weapons and military vehicles. One of the Soviet Union’s most impressive achievements was the development of the Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter. While intended to help the Russian cause, today, the chopper is being used against its country of origin.
Helicopters first saw use during the Second World War
During the Second World War, combat via air became much more prominent. While this meant an increase in the number of plane battles, it also saw the use of helicopters. At that point, however, choppers didn’t see much combat and were, instead, used to transport injured soldiers and ferry troops over rough terrain.
The Vietnam War saw the first example of armored helicopters. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois – or “Huey” – was important to the war effort. It was armed with guns that could be used to rain fire from the air, and also had the ability to transport troops. It couldn’t, however, perform both actions at the same time.
Locked in the Cold War with the US, the Russians aimed to develop a superior version of what the Americans had with the Huey.
The Russians looked to develop a superior helicopter model
In the 1960s, designer Mikhail Mil began work on the Soviet answer to the Huey. However, unlike the American helicopter, the plan was for the aircraft to ferry troops and fire its guns at the same time. Despite concerns over cost, the chopper was built with a twin-engine design, and its ability to carry a wide range of rockets, missiles, bombs, guns and cannons led to it being nicknamed the “flying tank.”
Testing began in the late ’60s and improvements were made over time. The helicopter was known for how quick it was and soon set records for speed. The Americans realized the Russians were in the process of creating a superior chopper and began work on their own in the early 1970s, resulting in the Sikorsky S-67 Blackhawk. However, the lone prototype crashed in September 1974, and the US Army reassigned the Black Hawk name to the UH-60.
The Hind helicopter was brutally effective
The first time the Hind helicopter saw combat was in 1977, when Russia supported the Ethiopians in the Ogaden War against Somalia. Mil Mi-24s were an important part of Ethiopia’s success, as the nation was able to take back Ogaden from the Somalis.
Mi-24s were, again, seen during the nearly 10-year Chadian-Libyan conflict, along with Mil Mi-25s. At one point, the Armed Forces of the North, a group of Chadian Rebels, were able to capture Mi-25s – two were sent to France and one to the US.
The helicopters also played a significant role in the Soviet-Afghan War. At first, the Mujahideen were having issues with the effectiveness of the Hind choppers. The US stepped in to provide the guerrillas with surface-to-air Stinger missiles, which proved effective.
The Ukrainian military is using Hind helicopters against the Russians
In February 2022, the Russian Army invaded Ukraine. If Ukraine was a member of NATO, the full force of the organization would have helped combat the threat from Russia. Despite not having joined, the country has received support from a number of member nations.
The US, France, Germany and England are among those who have provided humanitarian aid and supplies, along with artillery and equipment. Among the equipment received were a number of Hind helicopters from the Czech Republic. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin noted in May 2022, “I’d also like to thank the Czech Republic for its substantial support, including a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks, and rocket systems.”
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Austin didn’t say which helicopters had been provided, but the only ones currently utilized by the Czech Republic are 17 Russian-produced Hinds: seven Mi-24s and 10 Mil Mi-35 Hind Es.
The Ukrainian military has long-trained on Russian-built equipment, so they were able to utilize the helicopters without a hitch. They’ve been put to good use, too. In April 2022, the Ukrainian forces allegedly used Hind choppers to bomb a Russian oil storage facility in Belgorod.