Russia: Airborne Forces to get helicopter brigade

The Russian Airborne Forces will for the first time create an army aviation brigade. It will be formed in the coming two-three years. At present only the Aerospace Forces have army aviation brigades, but their engagement is subordinated to the military districts. The new airborne helicopter brigade will have four squadrons and one of them will be armed with Mi-35M gunships, the Izvestia daily writes.

Russia Airborne Forces to get helicopter brigade Russian Air Force Mi-35М (Picture source: Yevgeny Volkov)

Several sources in the Defense Ministry told the newspaper the decision to create one helicopter brigade in the Airborne Forces had been adopted. It will be created in 2020-2021, as new helicopters have to be procured for it. Sources said the brigade would report directly to the airborne commander.
The brigade will be deployed either in Ryazan, Voronezh or Orenburg. It will have four helicopter squadrons. One of them will be armed with Mi-35M gunships, as in contrast to Mi-28N and Ka-52 it can also carry seven paratroopers. Two other squadrons will be armed with Mi-8AMTSh combat transport helicopters, and the fourth one - with Mi-26T2 transport rotorcraft.

The helicopter brigade will raise the effectiveness of paratroopers and expand their missions, head of the Union of Russian Paratroopers Colonel Valery Yuryev said. "The engagement of Airborne Forces is being expanded. Paratroopers can be used to back the ground forces and engage in reconnaissance and subversion. In conditions of a powerful air defense it is more efficient to airlift the troops by helicopters which are actually invisible at low altitudes. A helicopter means both airlifting and fire support for paratroopers," he said.

In 2018, the 31st air assault brigade tested a new staff matrix of air units. At Vostok-2018 maneuvers its paratroopers were delivered by helicopters to adversary rear. The operation engaged over 40 Mi-8AMTSh helicopters, two heavy multirole Mi-26 and over a dozen Mi-24 fire support craft. Mi-8 delivered Pickup vehicles on suspension to the assigned area. Mi-26 delivered eight all-terrain quads and four Rys armored vehicles armed with Kornet antitank missiles and large-caliber Kord machineguns.
It was a successful experiment despite an organizational problem. "At present the army aviation reports to district commanders and Airborne Forces commander has to reach numerous agreements with superior headquarters to airlift his units," Yuryev said.

"Experience shows that a big number of negotiators can leak the information and thus deny surprise to the operation," he added. Therefore, it was decided to provide aviation to the Airborne Forces so that paratroopers can engage their own helicopters without delays.
The army aviation brigade will number 48-50 helicopters capable of operating day and night. Mi-8AMTSh-V has modern ceramic armor, VK-2500 engines and new avionics. The modification is fit for operation in desert and mountains.

Mi-26T2 transport helicopters will airlift armored vehicles armed with antitank missiles and machineguns. Mi-26T2 can carry close to 80 paratroopers in one sortie.
Mi-35M will provide fire support. The brigade can be quickly redeployed thousands of kilometers by airlifters, if necessary. All helicopters, except for Mi-26T2, can be carried by Il-76 airlifters. It takes 1-2 days to assemble helicopters for engagement.

Modern military technologies will distinguish the new concept of airborne mobility. Protected and satellite communications will keep the units in adversary rear within a single command system. Strelets reconnaissance and communication equipment and drones will help create reconnaissance-strike and reconnaissance-fire forces, expert Vladislav Shurygin said. "Strelets will help paratroopers interact with assault aviation and even aim cruise and ballistic missiles. It will expand air assault combat capabilities, survivability and firepower," he said.

The airborne brigade can be fully armed with assault and transport helicopters in two years without any detriment to other modernization programs. The renewal of the aircraft fleet has been a priority of the army reform of late. The troops annually receive from 70 to 135 new helicopters, the Izvestia said.

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