Poland Considers Mi-24 Upgrade



Poland Considers Mi-24 Upgrade
By Ryszard Jaxa-Malachowski,
AWN Central European correspondent

The Polish Ministry of Defense has started to look into upgrading an unspecified number of Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters operated by the Army Aviation.

Currently there are 46 helicopters of this type in two slightly varying models, B and W. Twelve of them came in early 1990s as a donation from Germany, having been in service with the National Army German Democratic Republic. The remaining Hinds were purchased directly from the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Mi-24s are operated by two regiments, and their main mission is to support operations of the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade providing air cover and close support. The other duty is tank hunting, for which four Malutka or Gad missiles are carried.

According to current estimations, the helicopters are due to reach their life limits soon and the very first aircraft will have to be grounded in 2003. Only five operational Hinds will be in service by 2010.

However, the Ministry of Defense has approved a plan to purchase up to 30 attack helicopters of, so far, unspecified technical performances. This may lead to very unwelcome loss of operational capabilities of the most lethal element of Polish ground forces the air-mobile brigade.

The operational needs suggest that Poland will need more attack helicopters than the Ministry would like to purchase and the additional 30 Mi-24s should be modernized. The most important factors are the extension of day/night and all weather capabilities converting Hinds into a powerful warfare tool for both quick reaction in conflict and ensuring effective training for crews during peacetime.

The NATO interoperability may allow the implementation of Polish Mi-24s into peace keeping or peace forcing operations. This aspect is also kept in focus. The operational needs specified above make necessary modern glass cockpits with HUD and HDDs, internal data transfer cased on standard MIL-STD-1553B bus and safe communication systems.

It is expected that modernized Mi-24s will remain in front line service until 2015-18, at least. This will require their life extension for a period of at least six years, but this might be accomplished without serious investments.

Despite the fact that a bid has not been officially announced, and the project itself uncertain, a number of potential suppliers have appeared on the horizon. So far the Italian Agusta, a French team lead by Thompson-CSF, Israel's IAI Taman Division, and South African ATE have made their presentations. The first two manufacturers have already upgraded prototypes of Mil M-24s and tested them successfully.

The French team has good experience gained over years of collaboration to Mil Design Bureau. The Russian participation is also expected especially that Mil was offering upgrade project similar to its Mi-35 four years ago. The most recent participant - still very mysterious - might come from the Ukraine, where the Mi-24 is reported to upgraded and flown probably with foreign (Western) implemented, however no details are known so far.

The French proposal comes from Thompson-CSF, which is supported by Sextant, Lacroix, the TDA and UK based Shorts. Euromissile might soon join those.

The project may have a positive influence on the ailing Polish military industry. The final project will be carried at the Lodz-based Military maintenance unit.

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