August 7, 2003
Russian helicopters continue to carry a heavy burden in Chechnya. An MI-8 Hip helicopter was forced to make a rough landing in a wooded area on the night of the 7th. The senior pilot was killed, but the flight engineer and the gunner pilot survived. The mountain crash site was seven kilometers from the village of Dyshne-Vedeno.
There are two accounts of what happened, both from Russian generals. Two MI-8 and two MI-24 Hind helicopters were on a mission to drop a landing force around 8PM. As soon as their mission was accomplished, the helicopters came under fire. The air force version was that the flight path out of the LZ was along the bed of a river, so the rebels opened from both banks with small arms and some large-caliber weapons. The Hip sustained damage from ground fire that prevented it from continuing its flight.
The dissenting Army version is that the Mi-8 was traveling at a low altitude over the mountains, got caught in a wind sheer, hit the tree tops and crashed. In this version, the ground fire report was dismissed as rebel propaganda.
On the 4th, Russian sappers blew up the MI-24 gunship that crashed near the village of Konzhukhoi in Chechnya on August 2, since it was damaged beyond repair. The helicopter crashed due to engine failure, but no one was hurt. The crew was evacuated and the hulk stripped.
Russian paratroopers have been going after rebel groups in the mountains, smoking out their caches and camps. MI-24 Hind, MI-8 Hip and MI-26 Halo helicopters flew about 500 sorties during the prior week. SU-24 Fencer bombers and SU-25 Frogfoot attack planes also flew 18 combat sorties. - Adam Geibel