Enjoy an unprecedented walkaround and cockpit tour of the Russian-built Mi-24D “Hind” gunship helicopter used in threat simulation by the U.S. Air Force.
The Mi-24D is a variant of the Mi-24 “Hind”, a pretty famous attack helicopter that gained notoriety during the Soviet-era war with Afghanistan. During that conflict, the threat posed by the durable and heavily-armed Soviet gunships was recognized by U.S. intelligence agencies which supported Taliban guerillas with Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) such as the FIM-92 Stinger missiles provided through several cover organizations to the insurgents in November 1987 through January 1988.
Since then, the ‘Hind” has been respected as a highly capable weapons system, so much so, some of these attack helicopters have been used by the U.S. Air Force for adversary training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. “The Mi-24, due to its size, flight profile, firepower and defensive maneuvering capabilities, constitutes a unique threat creating a realistic, dissimilar and credible opposing force,” read a U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command solicitation for contractors to provide Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter or an Mi-17 Hip transport helicopter to serve as accurate opposing forces threat simulation aircraft in 2018.
The Mi-24D, in particular, entered production in 1973 and, compared to the earlier variants, has a redesigned forward fuselage, with two separate cockpits for the pilot and gunner. It is armed with a single 12.7mm four-barrel Yak-B machine-gun under the nose. It can also carry four 57mm rocket pods along with a variety of other weapons.
In January 2020, Air Force’s 355th Wing Public Affairs unit officially released a story about the USAF 55th Rescue Squadron of the Air Combat Command training with two Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters at Davis-Monthan AFB outside Tucson, Arizona.
As we wrote about one year ago, “the aircraft later used in threat simulation at Davis-Monthan likely belong to, “Tacoma, Washington-based VTS Aviation LLC (VTSA), and System Studies & Simulation (S3) Inc. out of Huntsville, Alabama,” according to a March 15, 2018 article in Vertical Magazine by journalist Elan Head. According to Head’s report for Vertical Magazine, the two Mi-24s being used in the training exercises at Davis-Monthan started their journey to U.S. potential threat simulation from Bulgaria. The two Mi-24D ‘Hind’ attack helicopters were once on display at the Cold War Air Museum before the venue closed in 2017. They then began to appear in threat simulations under contract for the U.S. military. The aircraft have also served as realistic threat simulation aircraft for the U.S. Marines.”
The aircraft shown in the images released last year by the 355th Wing revealed that the two Mi-24D gunships used for training over Ryan Airfield, Arizona, and at Davis-Monthan AFB, featured the bort number 118 and 120. These are indeed two of three privately-owned Mi-24D “Hind” helicopters brought to the U.S. from Bulgaria. One was damaged in the transport so only two are currently flying. They are based at Lancaster, Texas, where our friend and videomaker Erik Johnston filmed the video below on Dec. 5, 2020.
If you want to learn more about this amazing helicopter, Mi-24 pilot Bruce Stringfellow will guide you through this unprecedented walkaround tour of his Mi-24 Hind gunship.
One interesting detail about the Mi-24 in the video (among all the others): the aircraft sports a Bulgarian roundel with the red star. This kind of roundel was in use between 1948 and 1992, when it was replaced by the current one (that does not feature the external star).