Footage shared from Ukraine last week shows Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopters flying low to the ground and delivering ammunition payloads on Russian positions below. The video shows the Ukrainian helicopters flying from across a farm field, before quickly increasing their altitude and firing the rockets.
Plumes of white smoke can be seen following the rockets as they strike the Russian positions beneath.
The footage was shared by Ukrainian-language Telegram account Bochkala_WAR and distributed via multiple English-language Twitter accounts, including military analyst Rob Lee.
The Mi-8 helicopter is a Soviet-built helicopter from the 1960s. While it is often used as a transport helicopter, the aircraft can also be used as an airborne command post, as an armed craft, and as a reconnaissance platform. It is the world’s most-produced helicopter, with more than 17,000 helicopters having been made over the last sixty years – and with many of those helicopters still in use today.
The helicopters seen in the video were undoubtedly flying low to avoid anti-aircraft missiles. Low-flying, high-speed aircraft are more difficult for anti-aircraft systems to destroy – and destroying these vehicles at such a low altitude may also put ground positions at risk.
Russia Claims Mi-8 Helicopters Were Used to Conduct Electronic Warfare
Mi-8 helicopters are not only used by the Ukrainians, but also by the Russians.
In June, footage released by Russia showed Mi-8 attack helicopters flying close to the ground – much like the first clip of Ukrainian pilots – before rapidly increasing their altitude and flying just above the clouds. The helicopters are then seen flying low to the ground.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) July 7, 2022
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the video showed the helicopters using electronic warfare systems against Ukrainian military posts. The servicemen, the Russian government said, were “using the modern electronic warfare systems at maximum altitude.”
“This allows for the greatest coverage of the area of electronic impact on anti-aircraft missile systems and enemy aircraft, making it impossible to detect objects and direct guided missiles of the air-to-air, ground-to-air and air-to-ground classes,” a statement from the. Russian Ministry of Defense reads.
And while these helicopters have proven valuable to both sides throughout the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the aircraft are not without their limitations and are not totally impervious to anti-aircraft strikes. Fighting in Ukraine has revealed the vulnerability of these helicopters, with large numbers on both sides downed by anti-aircraft missiles and artillery.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.