USAF uses Russian Mi-24 Hind Gunships in training at D-M

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Author Tom Demerly, TheAviationist.com, with one of the two Mi-24 ‘Hind’ helicopters at Nellis AFB, Nevada. (Janmack Demerly, TheAviationist.com)
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Jacob Stephens
A Russian MI-24 Hind gunship flies over Ryan Airfield, Arizona, Nov. 20, 2019. The MI-24 joined the 55th Rescue Squadron to work on basic helicopter maneuvering and combat readiness in the fourth iteration of the 55th RQS phase training program. (Airman 1st Class)

Russian-built Mi-24 ‘Hind’ attack helicopters are no strangers to U.S. airshow venues like Nellis Air Force Base, but official mention of the aircraft being used in active training with the U.S. Air Force is much less common.

In January, 355th Wing Public Affairs officially released a story about the 55th Rescue Squadron of the Air Combat Command training with two Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson.

“This is the first time this training has been done outside the weapons school at Nellis AFB,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Kurt Wallin, 55th RQS flight commander, said in an official Air Force press release from Davis-Monthan AFB Public Affairs. “This is a big step we’ve taken to increase our training capabilities since it is the first time we have trained outside of HH-60G Pave Hawk versus HH-60G. This training lets us see the capabilities of other aircraft against our own tactics and procedures.”

Wallin was referring to dissimilar aerial training that pits the U.S. Air Force’s HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter against the Russian manufactured Mi-24 ‘Hind’. The Mi-24 ‘Hind’ attack helicopter is in service with approximately 48 nations, some of them potential adversaries of U.S. forces deployed around the world.

Staff Sgt. Stefen Adams, 55th RQS, special mission aviator, told Davis-Monthan AFB Public Affairs that, “Our mission statement, ‘These things we do, so that others may live,’ shows that we have to be capable to deploy anywhere in the world against any threat. This is why this will be beneficial for us because this is the foundation as we continue to build on our training and broaden our efforts to what may come instead of what we have focused on the last few years.”

The Russian-built Mi-24 ‘Hind” attack helicopters being used in threat simulation at Davis-Monthan likely belong to Tacoma, Washington-based VTS Aviation LLC, and System Studies & Simulation Inc., out of Huntsville, Alabama, according to a March 15, 2018, article published 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 Mi-24 ‘Hind’ attack helicopter achieved notoriety during the Soviet-era war with Afghanistan, when Taliban guerillas, including Osama bin Laden, were supported by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Through several covert cover organizations, the U.S. provided Man-Portable Air Defense Systems such as the FIM-92 Stinger missile system to Taliban insurgents in November 1987 through January 1988. During this era, the threat posed by the durable and heavily-armed Mi-24 ‘Hind’ was recognized by U.S. intelligence agencies. Since then, the ‘Hind” has been respected as a highly capable weapons system.

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