Ukrainian Helicopters Bring Devastation to Russian Ground Forces: Videos shared to social media from the frontlines of Ukraine typically highlight the activities of ground vehicles, but this week, a Ukrainian Mi-17 medium helicopter was the star of the show.
“Ukrainian aviation work, unloading all the anger on the positions of the occupants,” tweeted Ukrainian reporter/military hardware analyst @Feher_Junior.
There have been multiple accounts of Ukrainian helicopters being employed in the recent fighting. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, each day Ukrainian pilots fly multiple sorties, where they skim low over the treetops and strike at Russian positions.
“We are carrying out combat tasks to destroy enemy vehicles, enemy personnel, we are working with pitch-up attacks from a distance from where the enemy can’t get us with their air defense system,” one regional Ukraine commander told the AP.
Old But Operational
Much like it is with a large number of the main battle tanks (MBTs), artillery systems, and other ground-based equipment that is being used in the ongoing fighting, the helicopters being employed by the Ukrainian forces date back to the Soviet era and are older than the crews now operating them daily.
Even as the conflict has become an artillery war, where both sides are now dug into trench lines resembling the Western Front in the First World War, Ukraine’s aviation capabilities are playing a significant role. As the recent video clip highlighted, helicopters can quickly reach a target and unleash a devastating barrage of ordnance.
Kyiv now operates four helicopter brigades, including the now-famed 18th Sikorsky Brigade and all are primarily relying on aircraft dating back to the Cold War, including Mi-8, Mi-17, and Mi-24. The helicopters are armed with weapons just as old, including unguided, Soviet-era rockets.
The Ukrainians have developed a unique method of attacking flying that is often even lower than the tree line, less than 30 feet from the ground. Hugging the contours of the land at speeds of up to 150 mph, the flights can be extremely treacherous but it allows the aircraft to avoid detection. As they reach their target, the choppers can then launch of burst of 30 to 40 rockets, then make a mad dash back to their base of operations.
The attacks are often carried out in pairs, sometimes in packs of four.
The Mi-17 as seen in the video is of course combat proven, rugged, and dependable. While it offers little protection beyond its maneuverability, it is able to carry up to 1,500 kg (3,300 pounds) of ordnance that can include various anti-tank or air-to-ground missiles, or pods equipped with 57mm and 80mm unguided weapons.
Every mission carries a certain amount of risk, as the helicopters are low enough to the ground that they can make tempting targets for infantry armed with man-portable missiles. Ukraine’s Air Force and Army aviators have also been a top priority prey for Russian missiles, CNN reported.
— Feher_Junior (@Feher_Junior) April 3, 2023
Just as the British people owed a great debt to the Royal Air Force in the Second World War, the Ukrainians will surely remember the brave helicopter pilots striking back against the Russian invader.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.