Procurement: Nigerian Mi-35s Get A Brazilian


October 17, 2016: Nigeria has six more Russian Mi-35M gunships on the way with the first arriving in November and the others in 2017. When Nigeria ordered the M-35Ms in 2014 Russia was under economic sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, Nigeria wanted American helicopter gunships but the U.S. would not sell because the Nigerian military was notoriously corrupt and that often meant new military equipment, especially complex stuff like aircraft, soon becoming inoperable because officers and officials stole needed spare parts and equipment needed to keep the stuff flying. So Nigeria turned to Russia, who could sell export to some countries. By early 2015 a new, reform minded president was in power and the Americans were willing to sell. But because of the U.S. experience in Afghanistan (where they bought dozens of Mi-8 helicopters for the security forces) the U.S. told Nigeria they should try the new Mi-35Ms and look to upgrading the older gunships with Western electronics.

The new Nigerian Mi-35Ms are based on the much improved models specified by and delivered to Brazil in 2011. Nigeria already has six similar (but much older) Mi-24s and six older and less well equipped Mi-35Ms.

The Brazilian experience is worth examining. Brazil received in 2011 the first six of the dozen Russian Mi-35M helicopter gunships it ordered in 2008. Renamed the AH-2, the Russian gunships are used to patrol the vast river network of the interior, mainly the Amazon and its tributaries. This work mainly involves going after drug smugglers (afloat, on land or in the air.) The Mi-35M, with a top speed of 335 kilometers an hour, and two hour endurance, is well equipped for this work. The only weapon usually carried is the 23mm autocannon. This is generally sufficient for whatever the aircraft might encounter in, or above, the jungle. Nigeria has a similar need in the Niger River Delta which is similar to the climate and foliage the Brazilian Mi-35Ms operate in.

The Mi-35M is the export version of the most recent (the most widely produced) model of the Mi-24V gunship. The Mi-35M version entered service in 2005. Brazil paid $12.5 million each for aircraft that are armed with a twin barrel 23mm autocannon. Missiles and rocket pods can be attached to the stubby wings. The most important addition to the AH-2 is modern electronics in the cockpit (based LCD touch screen displays replacing many of the dials and switches) and a new fire control system that used day/night vidcams that enable accurate shooting in the dark as well as during the day).

The Mi-24/35 is a twelve ton helicopter gunship that also has a cargo area that can hold up to eight people, or four stretchers. The Mi-24/35 is used by over thirty countries, and has a pretty good reputation for reliability. Despite the tropical conditions in central Brazil, the Mi-35Ms are available for action 70 percent of the time. The design is based on the earlier Mi-8 transport helicopter. Thus the export model, the Mi-17, is also a 12 ton helicopter, but without all the gunship stuff. It can carry 2.6 tons of cargo, or up to 24 troops.


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