May 22, 2010:
Finland is retiring its last two Russian made Mi-8 transport helicopters. They are being replaced by NH90s. Until the end of the Cold War in 1991, Finland bought much of its military equipment from its large, and often hostile, neighbor, the Soviet Union (now Russia and 14 other new nations). Finland has been using Mi-8s since 1973, and has taken good care of them. As a result, they have never had a serious Mi-8 accident with the eleven they have operated over the years.
The Mi-8, a twin-engine helicopter, roughly equivalent to the U.S. UH-1. But the Mi-8/17 is still in production and is the most widely exported (2,800 out of 12,000 made) helicopter on the planet. The Mi-8 is about twice the size and weight of the UH-1, but only hauls about 50 percent more cargo. However, the Mi-8 had a larger interior, and can carry 24 troops, versus a dozen in the UH-1. The UH-1 was replaced by the UH-60 in the 1980s, while the Mi-8 just kept adding better engines and electronics to the basic Mi-8 frame. The UH-60, while weighing ten tons (compared to UH-1's 4.8 tons), could carry as much as the 12 ton Mi-8. But the Mi-8 costs about half as much as a UH-60, and the larger interior is popular with many users.
Finland has 40 NH-90s on order, at a cost of over $50 million each. The first one arrived two years ago. Over 500 NH90s have been sold so far. The ten ton NH-90 can carry 21 troops or twelve casualties on stretchers, plus the crew of two. It first flew in 1995. The manufacturer, NH Industries, is a consortium of French, German, Dutch and Italian firms.