Russian Il-76MD Performs Tactical Landing On Dirt Strip Escorted By Mi-24s in “Mandatory Matsurov” Mission

Two Mi-24s escort an Il-76 during a recent exercise in Russia (Image credit: screenshot from Youtube).

The mission of escorting large aircraft and act as a “bait” for MANPADS dates back to the the Soviet-Afghan War when it was dubbed “Mandatory Matsurov”.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has released an interesting video of an Il-76MD cargo aircraft landing on an unpaved runway located near Sol-Iletsk, Orenburg Region, during a technical support exercise (MTO) of the Russian Federation Armed Forces in the Central Military District.

After landing, the aircraft was serviced and unloading and loading operations were also simulated as part of the drills that also included a simulated attack on the airflied and a firefighting operation on an Mi-8AMTSh helicopter “damaged” by saboteurs. Special MTO exercises are held under the leadership of Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Army General Dmitry Bulgakov. More than 30 thousand military personnel take part in them, over 7 thousand

What makes the video particularly interesting is the fact that the Il-76 was escorted by two Mi-24 helicopters during the landing and subsequent takeoff from the dirt strip runway, a tactic reminiscent of the operations conducted by the Mi-24V in the 1980s during the Soviet – Afghan war.

“The Mi-24Vs which escorted the desants [Russian Airborne Troops] became the signature aircraft of the conflict” says Thomas Withington in “Night of the Flying Hooligans Soviet Army Aviation and Air Force Operations during the War in Afghanistan 1979-1989” a chapter included in “Air Power, Insurgency and the “War on Terror”” edited by Joel Hayward.

“With its insect-like shape and tweeting main rotor, the aircraft became a regular star on the world’s television screens as the UH-1 Huey had been during the Vietnam War. At the start of the conflict, Hind crews took their machines down into the valleys to press home attacks on the Mujahideen, but as the rebel’s air defences improved with the addition of MANPADS and captured ZSU-23-4 Shikla self-propelled air-defence guns the Hind crews took their aircraft higher to avoid the danger below,” says Withington.

The threat posed by MANPADS to Soviet transport aircraft as well as Aeroflot liners used to transport personnel and material, imposed an addition to the array of missions flown by the “Hind” helicopters.

“Missions for the gunships included the notorious “Mandatory Matsurov”. Matsurov was a hero of the Great Patriotic War, a young soldier who threw himself across a German machinegun emplacement so that his comrades could advance. The Hinds’ heroic contribution saw them escorting transport aircraft into and out of Afghan airfields to act as bait for MANPADS and to deploy Infra-Red Counter Measures (IRCMs) and gunfire to suppress and destroy the rebels’ attack.

If all else failed, the Hind crews were to fly their machines towards the missile to sacrifice themselves for the larger aircraft. Tellingly, for much of the conflict, Soviet transport aircraft lacked countermeasures, and Aeroflot civil aircraft, which were also used for the transport role, had none whatsoever.

A similar mission was performed by the Hinds in conjunction with the Hips with the latter playing the Matsurov role drawing Mujahideen fire to expose the rebel position which would then be pulverised by the Mi-24s,” concludes Withington.

The standard procedure for aircraft in the need to land at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan saw the transport aircraft perform a steep initial approach and get flanked by Mi-24V helicopters for the rest of the approach until touchdown. The Hinds would dispense flares in case of heat-seeking missile launch and fly into the missile path to absorbe its impact in order to save the escorted jet ferrying troops and material.

More or less what you can see in the video below:

Update Sept. 5, 2019 14.00GMT
Here below is a comment our Russian friend Alex Snow made in our FB Group to highlight the “origin” of the “Mandatory Matsurov” name. It’s worth a read:

Recent MTO of Russian Defense Ministry (Force Logistics Supply Command) exercises with the landing of IL-76 accompanied by a pair of Mi-24б on the ground stripe, made The Aviationist remember an interesting legend from the time of the Afghan war: that the Mi-24 pilots called themselves “Mandatory Matsurovs”.

One particularly nerve-racking mission for the Mi-24 crews would be the so-called ‘Mandatory Matsurov ’. Named after a hero of the Great Patriotic War who flung himself across a German machine gun to allow his comrades to advance, the helicopters would be tasked to escort jet transport aircraft as they arrived and departed from Kabul International Airport. The hinds would dispense flares to confuse the heatseeking MANPADS of the dukhi. If a missile was launched, then the helicopter was to fly into its path and absorb its impact, the Krocodil sacrificing itself for the jet. (The Royal Airforce / Air Power review. Vol.8. # 1. Spring 2005. The experiences of the Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Thomas Withington).

Of course, Mr. Withington reprinted this passage from another source (The Mil Mi-24 Hind & Mi-28 Havoc v1.1.0 / TOC / 01 apr 03 / greg goebel )
Hinds were also used to shield jet transports flying in and out of Kabul from Stingers. The gunships carried flares to blind the missiles, and were under orders to try to take the hit from the missile themselves if worst came to worst. The crews called themselves “Mandatory Matsurovs”, after a hero of the Great Patriotic War who threw himself across a Nazi machine gun to let his comrades break through.) adding by himself even more bloody and chilling details about these crazy russians.

Made my own small research, I can say that there was no mention of the single event, even slightly resembled this suicidal “Matsurov” defense tactic not even mention that it was “mandatory” and was widely and frequently used. Also there is no data on any civilian (Aeroflot or other) plane which was shoot down or even was at risk and was guarded by Mi-24 at Kabul airport (KBL/OAKB).

And of course, the aforementioned Matsurov, who is now wandering from publication to publication (as celibate instead of celebrate in our Holy Book ;)), is a misspeled name of WWII war hero Alexander Matrosov (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Matrosov).
Speaking in general, when a huge amount of quite serious materials on the Russian military, including extensive and generally available (in Russian) information on the history of the creation and combat use of the Mi-24, is available, this “Mandatory Matsurovs” only shows the level and quality of western expertise and intelligence in the field of former Soviet and now Russian forces, and, generally, western way of thinking about Russians.



About David Cenciotti 3821 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.