Russian MoD details new Army Aviation Brigades

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Russian MoD details new Army Aviation Brigades
The Russian military department is sharply increasing Army aviation’s strength. Before the end of the year, the Eastern and Central Military Districts will be supplemented with two new army aviation brigades (AAB). These military units are tasked to provide direct support to ground forces and will be mainly equipped with helicopters. Attack and transport rotorcraft destroy enemy armored vehicles and personnel, air drop, and transport servicemen and various cargoes. Each AAB has about a hundred helicopters.
Landing of paratroopers from Mi-8 helicopters during the joint tactical exercise "Slavic Brotherhood 2017"
(Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence)
As Izvestia was told at the Main Staff of the Aerospace Forces (which include army aviation units), the formation of the 18th Army Aviation Brigade began in the Eastern Military District at the end of last year. The new unit will be stationed in Khabarovsk. The Central Military District, too, will be supplemented with an AAB by the end of this year. The deployment of the 17th Brigade will begin soon in Novosibirsk.

Each AAB consists of four squadrons and one flight. Two operational squadrons are equipped with Mi-28N, Ka-52 and Mi-35M attack helicopters. The transport/combat and transport squadrons carry out their missions on the MI-8AMTSH and MI-8MTV-5 helicopters. To transport extra-heavy oversized cargo and equipment, the brigade includes one flight of Mi-26 heavy-lift transport helicopters.

"Currently, Western and Southern districts have their army aviation brigades," military historian Dmitry Boltenkov told Izvestia. "So, the 15th Brigade is stationed at the former naval air airfield in the town of Ostrov, Pskov Region. At one time, the formation of this military unit caused a negative reaction among the Baltic countries. They felt that the unique firepower and transport capabilities of the new military unit posed a serious threat. Recently, the 16th Brigade was formed in Zernograd, Rostov Region."

As expert Anton Lavrov noted, with the new military units, the Russian armed forces will receive unique force projection capabilities on the battlefield, as well as for transportation of troops between the likely theaters of operations.

"Helicopters do not require runways. Therefore, they can be easily relocated and stationed," the expert explained. "On the battlefield, the operational squadrons of Mi-28N and Ka-52 can support the offensive of their troops. If necessary, they can easily stop the enemy's offensive. Transport and transport/combat squadrons, with the support of the Mi-26s (dubbed "Flying Cows"), can carry out deep raids in the rear of the enemy, land paratroopers with light armored vehicles there, which will destroy headquarters, warehouses, and also seize critical infrastructure facilities."

According to Lavrov, army aviation brigades will also be useful for an airlift of troops over distances of hundreds and thousands of kilometers. That is especially vital for Siberia, the Far East and Transbaikalia, where the transport infrastructure is poorly developed.

Before 2008, the Russian army had only regiments and separate squadrons of army aviation. They were armed with Mi-24, Mi-8 and Mi-26 helicopters. In the course of reform announced by ex-Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, these military units were disbanded and Cat 2 air bases were established on their basis. At the same time, it was decided to start re-equipping these military units with modern equipment. Initially, army aviation units received Mi-35M, Mi-8AMTSH and Mi-8MTV-5 helicopters. Later, the Russian military department began forming squadrons of Mi-28Ns, the newspaper Izvestia recalls.
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