State flight testing begins with Mi-24VM.

MIL’S PROTOTYPE upgraded Mi-24VM completed a satisfactory 20-minute test flight at its Panki facility near Moscow on March 4. The Mi-24VM is an intermediate variant, to be produced in parallel with the Mi-28 Havoc and shares the latter’s main and tail rotor assemblies. At the beginning of 1999 approximately 1,000 Mi-24s remained in service with the Russian Army. Upgrading 30-35% of them will allow the Army to retire the rest of the fleet as airframe life expires, without negative effect on the overall combat capability of the force. Mil Deputy General Designer, Vladimir Stekolnikov, believes that the upgrade will prolong the life of the Army’s helicopter assets up to 2015-2020.

The Mi-24VM has more powerful TV3-117VMA engines rated at 2,194shp (l,636kW) and is 1,3221b (600kg) lighter than previous models, achieved by adoption of a reduced span stub wing and a fixed undercarriage. The upgrade will be conducted on a so-called ‘block programme’ schedule with five sub-programmes that can be completed in any combination, according to customers wishes.

The first entails airframe and component life extension, whilst the second involves the upgrade of main and tail rotor assemblies for commonality with the Mi-28. Sub-programme three introduces the shortened wing and fixed undercarriage units, plus weapons system and radio modifications. Stage four incorporates night vision compatibility, whilst the fifth sub-programme introduces weapons effectiveness improvements. Weapons envisaged for the Mi-24VM include Ataka-V and Shturm anti-tank missiles as well as Igla-V for self defence. Most of the above upgrades can be performed at unit level, at re-fit bases or at the manufacturing plants.

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