Although Russia held a completion,
to decide which of its two new helicopter gunship designs (the Ka-50 and
Mi-28N) to standardize on, it has decided to buy both. Last year, the Mi-28N
was designated as the winner of the competition, and plans made to buy twenty
over the next three years. But now the military has decided to buy large quantities
of both. Starting this year, at least ten Mi-28Ns a year will be bought. This
plan to support both gunships is apparently influenced by the possibility of
export sales. The Mi-28N is a more capable helicopter, costing about the same
as the AH-64D ($15 million each). But the Ka-50 is not only cheaper, but quite
a good design as well. The Russians know that their weapons sell much better
when a rock bottom price is offered.
The Mi-28N "Night Hunter" is an all
weather; night attack version of the 1980s era Mi-28A, with added FLIR (night
vision sensor), night fighting optics and a two man crew. The basic Mi-28 is a
11.6 ton helicopter that can carry 1.6 tons of rockets and missiles. The
aircraft also has a 30mm cannon. The cockpit for the two man crew is armored,
and the helicopter has missile countermeasures (chaff and flares), GPS, head up
display, laser designator and other gadgets. The Mi-28N will be replacing the
1960s era Mi-24 gunship in the Russian armed forces. The air force wants to buy
300, and would like to get at least fifty before the end of the decade. That
will depend more on the price of oil than anything else.
The Mi-28N has a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour
and a one way range of 1,100 kilometers. It can carry up to 16 anti-tank
missiles (with a range of up to eight kilometers). The helicopter can also
carry 80mm rockets, bombs or fuel for additional range. The Mi-28 has been around in small quantities
for two decades, but the Mi-28N is the most advanced model, on a par with the
American AH-64D gunship (which is a little lighter.) The first version of the
Mi-28N was shown in 1996, although the manufacturer, Mil, wasn't ready to offer
for sale until 2004.
The Ka-50 is more compatible with earlier versions
of the AH-64, and is available at less than half the cost of the Mi-28N. For
export customers, steep discounts are available depending on how much the
Russians want to make the sale, or simply please the customer.