By Oscar Nkala
GABORONE: The Algerian Air Force (AAF) has ramped up its order of Russian-made Mi-28NE “Night Hunter” attack helicopters from the eight initially reported in January to 42, the Russian-language newspaper RIA-Novosti reported.
Quoting an unnamed military-industrial source last week, Russian media outlets RIA-Novosti and TASS said Algeria and Iraq have become the first international customers of the Mi-28NE helicopter with confirmed orders of 42 and 19 respectively while more countries are negotiating for similar acquisitions.
“These are Commonwealth of Independent States (a grouping of traditional Russian military customers) countries, [countries] in Latin America, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Bahrain, Iran, Egypt, Algeria and also countries in sub-Saharan Africa which are negotiating for the acquisition of the Mi-28NE,” said the source, who works at the Russian Defense Ministry’s International Cooperation Department.
Last week, Russian Aerospace Forces Mi-28NEs, armed with AT-9 Spiral 2 guided missiles, made their battle debut, pounding Islamic State targets in the Syrian province of Homs. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the helicopter’s radio-electronic jamming systems easily suppressed man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) deployed against them by the insurgents.
The hostile anti-aircraft systems destroyed by the Mi-28NE reportedly included Soviet-made Strela-1, the Igla-1 and the Chinese-made Hong Ying-5 surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems deployed against airborne attacks on insurgents’ positions.
The source told TASS that the Mi-28 attack helicopters due to be delivered to Algeria, which are capable of carrying out day and night missions in extreme weather conditions, will be modified so that they can be flown from both the pilot’s cockpit and the operator pilot’s cockpit.
Developed by Russian Helicopters industrial subsidiary Rostvertol, the Mi-28NE is an export version of the Mil-28N that is designed to identify and destroy battle tanks, armored vehicles, personnel, boats, small naval vessels, low-speed and low-altitude aircraft.
The source said that after excelling on combat duty in Iraq and Syria, the Mi-28NE helicopter is being sought by countries that include Brazil, Vietnam and several other North African countries apart from Algeria. Russian ambassador to Algeria Alexander Zolotov declined to comment on the Mi-28NE order but confirmed that the Algerian military is keen to acquire new Russian defense platforms.
“The Algerian military is satisfied with the quality of Russian weapons, which has proven itself well in the specific conditions here, namely the desert with its extremely high temperatures and sandstorms,” Zolotov said.
Last month, Algeria and Russia started sharing intelligence satellite imagery of terrorist movements from Libya across the Maghreb and North-West Africa and announced plans to enhance bilateral military cooperation.
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