India recently received the last batch of 151 Mi-17V-5 Hip transport helicopters, Russian defense export agency Russian Helicopters reported on Tuesday 2 February. The helicpoters were produced by JSC Kazan Helicopters. According to the same report, India is planning to order another 48 choppers for use with the Indian Air Force.
“India is one of the key markets for Russian helicopter building industry and the largest operator of Russian-made helicopters in the South-East Asia. Today, this country uses more than 400 helicopters, which have proved themselves well,” said Russian Helicopter CEO Alexander Mikheev. The company also claims the Mi-17V-5 helicopters supplied to India are some of the best technically equipped helicopters of the Mi-8/17 series, using the best solutions of previous generations.
Every Indian Mi-17V-5 helicopter is fitted with a KNEI-8 avionics suite. The suite has replaced multiple systems indicators with four large multi-functional that are easy to read and reduce the pilot’s workload. This avionics suite also helps to cut down pre-flight inspection time by displaying all systems data and alerting the crew when necessary. Also, the helicopters supplied to India are equipped with the latest and more powerful engines, which enhance payload carriage capability at higher altitudes – useful in the mountainous Indian landscape.
As recently announced, Russia and India have started to implement a project aimed at manufacturing no less than 200 light multirole Ka-226T helicopters, as reported here at Airheadsfly.com already last year. According to documents signed by the governments of the two countries, no less than 200 of the Ka-226T helicopters and their modifications will be manufactured in India. The agreement also includes maintenance, operation, repairs of helicopters and provision of technical support.
Ghana is to order four additional Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack, counter-insurgency and training aircraft from Brazil, according to Ghanaian Air Force’s Air Vice Marshal Michael Samon-Oje. More new aircraft are on their way.
The high-ranking officers confirmed on Accra Airbase this week that its country will gain a second batch of the Super Tucanos, following a 2015 order for five A-29s, and that negotiations with Brazil are ongoing.
Third Ghana Airbus C295
As we reported earlier Ghana is upgrading its military. Apart from the five Harbin Z-9EH helicopters received in October this year, a third Airbus C295 tactical airlifter is soon expected. Six additional Mil Mi-17 tactical transport helicopters are on order in Russia, to complement the current seven “Hips”.
After the four remaining Aermacchi MB-339 aircraft were placed in storage in 2014, the Ghanaian Air Force has no fixed-wing combat element until the entry into service in 2016 of the first five Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos.
The Belarusian Air Force started to upgrade almost its entire fleet of aircraft. The most ambitious part: to replace the 24 older MiG-29s “Fulcrum” combat jets with state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-30SM “Flanker” aircraft between 2020 and 2030.
During a meeting with journalist from Belarusian state press agency BelTA Major-General Oleg Dvigalev, Chief of Staff of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence, said that his people already test-flew the Su-30SM during the recent MAKS International Airshow in Moscow.
Although the general did not say how many Flankers he would like the buy, we at Airheadsfly.com believe that the 13 MiG-29s upgraded to BM standard in the early 2000s will stay a bit longer, while up to 18 Su-30SMs will be purchased. The number is based on earlier statements by the Belarusian military leadership.
Meanwhile the country’s rotary wing of 20 Mil Mi-35 attack helicopters and 5 Mi-26 heavy-lift choppers is expecting a boost with the arrival of 12 Mi-8MTV-5 choppers, the first six in 2016 and the second batch in 2017. They are an upgraded version of the 18 to 25 Mi-8/Mi-17s the Belarusian Air Force has already on strength and are expected to replace some of them.
Airlift and attack
One of the two Ilyushin IL-76 strategic airlifters is currently being brought back to airworthy status, while the second batch of four Yakovlev Yak-130 light attack and advanced jet trainers has been ordered some time ago. The backbone of the Belarusian Air Force’s ground attack capacity, between 40 and 68 operational Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” jets, will remain in service – as well as two to four Antonov An-26 transport aircraft and a handful of Mil Mi-2 utility helicopters.
The day after Russia ‘officially’ started combat mission over Syria, the first clear images of the various fighter aircraft at Latakia airbase have started to appear. Most notable thing on those images: the Russian identification markings on the Sukhois have disappeared, including the Russian red start and the aircraft’s serial numbers.
Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” ground attack aircraft, Su-24 “Fencer” bombers, Su-30 Flanker multi-role fighters and Su-34 Fullback bombers started arriving in Syria over a week ago. Mil Mi-24 and/or Mi-35 Hinds attack helos are also present, as well as Mi-17 Hip assault helicpters.
The military aircraft started operations this week, with Western watchers wondering what targets exactly the Russians are aiming at. Despite Moscow claiming to fight ISIS, the 28 to 34 aircraft Russia has moved to Syria apparently also target other groups opposing the current Assad government. Reports have come in of bombing in areas that Western intelligence services claim have no ISIS activity whatsoever.
The short term ‘good’ thing about it for Western nations and their allies is that Russian aircraft seem to concentrate their bombings in the western parts of Syria, where there is less activity by the many fighter jets of the US-led Operations Inherent Resolve that engage ISIS forces further away from the Syrian coast and the capital Damascus.
The removal of markings could very well be to help deniability when one of the planes get shot down – ironically a very real possibility given the large umber of Russia-supplied air defense weapons in the area, not to mention Western aircraft flying around also.
The Russians are known to remove nationality markings in sensitive surroundings, like earlier in Eastern Ukraine. And ‘sensitive’ surely describes the current situation in and over Syria.
UPDATE 21 September | Russia is beefing up its military presence in Syria in such a way that it will be able to operate from an airhead independently with proper defences both in the air and on the ground.
UPDATE | Recent satellite images seem to confirm the presence of at least twelve Su-25 Frogfoots and four Su-30 Flanker in Syria. See image below. US sources say 12 Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers are in Syria as well.
Basid al-Assad Airbase is since Friday home to four Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker multi-role fighters, strengthening the eight helicopters (Mi-24 “Hind” attack and Mi-17 “Hip” assault choppers) that were delivered by cargo planes earlier, according to US military sources. The field is located 12 miles (20 km) south from the strategic important port of Latakia, a city that is controlled by the Syrian government army.
Syrian, Russian and American sources report that Russian engineers have started to lengthen the runways, pave parking areas for aircraft and ground equipment and improve other infrastructure on the base, which recently have seen the flow of small numbers of up to one or two dozen main battle tanks, mobile artillery and at least 30 to 40 infantry BTR-type fighting vehicles / armoured personnel carriers. Amongst the Russian aircraft seen landing at Basid al-Assad were Antonov AN-124 Ruslan (“Condor”) and Ilyushin IL-76 (“Candid”) strategic airlifters.
According to the Pentagon 500 Russian marines are inside Syria, while Russia is said to have moved pre-fab housing to the airbase to serve as the living quarters of 2,000 personnel. Officially all Russian forces are there to “advise” Syria, but several military sources think an increased Russian presence will fight side-by-side with the Syrian government army against the many rebel factions opposing the current regime.
Meanwhile the US-led coalition continues to bomb so-called Islamic State forces positions further east in Syria, and in Iraq, with the Royal Australian Air Force and the French Air Force recently expanding their operations also into Syrian air space.