Live Target Practice in Syria

Defense Ministry to Take Delivery of 24 “Flying Tanks” for Testing in Syria
Inna Sidorkova
RBC
October 19, 2017

In November, the Russian Defense Ministry will receive the first batch of improved Night Hunter helicopters from Russian Helicopters. The new choppers will cost the Defense Ministry at least 400 million USD. The helicopters should alter aviation tactics in Syria. 

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Russian Night Hunter combat helicopter. Photo courtesy of Russian Helicopters/RBC

For Syria
By 2020, the Defense Ministry will take delivery of twenty-four modernized Night Hunter Mi-28UB combat training helicopters, Andrei Boginsky, general director of Russian Helicopters, a subsidiary of state corporation Rostek, told RBC. He stressed the Mi-28UB was designed with its future use in Syria in mind.

The first batch of helicopters—up to ten units—will be delivered to the Defense Ministry in November of this year. Two choppers will be delivered to the 334th Center for Combat Training and Army Flight Crew Retraining in Torzhok, Vadim Barannikov, deputy manager of Russian Helicopters Rosvertol plant, told journalists on October 19.

“Currently, the Defense Ministry is the Mi-28UB’s only buyer. However, similarly configured Mi-28-like helicopters will be delivered to foreign customers,” said Boginsky.

He added that the coming online of the chopper’s combat training version opened up “practically unlimited” opportunities for improving the training of Mi-28N pilots.

“The chance to train on a real combat helicopter, rather than on a simulator, is a huge advantage for our combat pilots in comparison with their counterparts from other countries,” said Boginsky.

Boginsky declined to tell RBC the cost of the contract with the Defense Ministry and the price of a single helicopter. However, as two of RBC’s sources in the aviation industry noted, the cost of the Mi-28UB would be a “little higher” than the basic model due to the improved design and other features. According to AircraftCompare.com, a website specializing in collecting and analyzing information on aviation equipment, the cost of the Mi-28N ranges from 16.8 million USD to 18 million USD. The sum of the contract with the Defense Ministry for delivery of the helicopters should be at least 400 million USD.

The delivery of twenty-four Mi-28 combat training helicopters is Russian Helicopters biggest contract with the Defense Ministry since 2015, the company’s press service told RBC. For the first time in history, the Russian army will get its hands on combat training helicopters with dual piloting systems.

The Mi-28UB
The design of the Mi-28 combat training helicopter, the improved Night Hunter, is based on the Mi-28N night attack helicopter, which was added to the army’s arsenal by presidential decree in 2009. Its maximum speed is 300 kilometers/hour, its dynamic ceiling, 5.6 kilometers, and its takeoff weight, nearly 11,000 kilograms. The Mi-28UB is armed with Ataka-V air-to-surface and Strelets air-to-air guided missile systems, a nonremovable mobile 30mm automatic cannon, and B-8V20A mounts for C-98 80mm caliber rockets and C-13 130mm caliber rockets.

The main difference between the Mi-28UB and the Mi-28N is the dual piloting system, as RBC was informed by Russian Helicopters press service. The chopper can be piloted both from the commander’s cockpit and the system operator pilot’s cockpit, which expands its capacity for training combat pilots. In addition, during emergency combat circumstances, control of the helicopter can be assumed by the second crew member. The helicopter is also outfitted with a simulator for training student pilots to deal with in-flight equipment failure.

The Mi-28UB is outfitted with modernized integrated onboard radioelectronic equipment. The cockpit has been expanded, the area covered by armored glass has been increased, and visibility from the system operator pilot’s cockpit has been improved. The Mi-28UB has an automatic landing system. A state-of-the-art laser defense station has been installed onboard to defend the helicopter from heat-seeking missiles.

Why a “Flying Tank” Is Needed
The Mi-28UB has been added to the arsenal to adjust the tactics used by Russian aviation in Syria and other hotspots in the future, said the military experts interviewed by RBC.

The army lacks combat pilots, noted Colonel Viktor Murakhovsky (Reserves), chief editor of the magazine Arsenal of the Fatherland. During a speech in the State Duma in February, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that, as of 2016, the Aerospace Forces (VKS) lacked 1,300 pilots.

When the VKS launched its Syrian campaign, the Defense Ministry called up officers from the reserves and even introduced accelerated pilot courses for servicemen working in different jobs, such as aircraft technicians, Murakhovsky recalled.

“In this sense, it means a lot to train pilots on helicopters with dual piloting systems,” said Murakhovsky. “Thanks to the system, an experienced pilot will be able to prompt the trainee and take over the helicopter in emergencies. Pilots will be trained twice as quickly.”

The combat training version of the helicopter was initially designed to train cadets to fly the Mi-28. Previously, rookie pilots had to undergo initial training on stimulators or other helicopters, and then retrain on the Mi-28. This took time, argued Colonel Andrei Payusov (Reserves). The modernized Mi-28 will be used to train graduating cadets and retrain serving pilots, he believes.

The Mi-28 combat training helicopter will facilitate running young flight crews through their paces and nurture combat pilots, Colonel Sergei Yefimov (Reserves), a combat sniper pilot, told RBC. The Mi-28 gives the army the chance to change combat tactics, and the improved visibility and armored glass will help crews feel more confident in the cockpit.

“The modernized integrated onboard radioelectronic equipment will make searching, detecting, identifying, and eliminating targets more effective,” said Yefimov.

But in addition to accelerated training of combat pilots, the Mi-28 faces yet another task, said Colonel Sergei Gorshunov, senior navigation inspector in the Fourth Army’s aviation wing and the Southern Federal District Air Defense. In modern combat, it is hard for a single member of the crew to pilot a helicopter properly while tracking the enemy and aiming at a target, stressed Gorshunov.

“So the Defense Ministry asked for a helicopter with a dual piloting system,” said Gorshunov.

According to Gorshunov, the Mi-28UB can be used not only to support infantry but also to cause tangible damage to the enemy’s armored units.

“We might say it’s a flying tank. If the guided missiles are deployed, a couple of helicopters can disable from four to eight tanks,” concluded Gorshunov.

The first prototype of the Mi-28UB was manufactured by Rosvertol in 2013. The helicopter was put into mass production in late 2015, RBC’s source in the aviation industry said.

“The helicopter was tested for a very long time. All the tests have been passed, including tests in Syria. Now it is a matter of delivering the first batch,” he explained.

Translated by the Russian Reader

UPDATE. Russian Helicopters was listed in a White House document of Russian companies and entities that may be considered for further sanctions. The New York Times published the unclassified document on October 26, 2017.

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Terrorism in Petersburg: Then and Now

St. Petersburg Gets a Taste of Terrorism
Vladimir Alexandrov
Kommersant Daily
December 20, 1996

A bomb exploded in the Petersburg subway in the early hours of December 19. By a lucky chance, there were no victims. This was the first terrorist attack in Petersburg [sic].* Until the incident, law enforcement had either received false bomb threats or had found the bombs in time. FSB officers, who have joined the investigation, have not yet put forward any more or less convincing explanations of what happened.

The hands on the clock in the driver’s cab showed 12:10 a.m. when he felt the train tremble violently. (It was then traveling between Ploshchad Lenina and Vyborgskaya stations, on the Kirovsky Zavod-Vyborgskaya Line).

“At first, I thought one of the junction boxes in the train’s pneumatic system had exploded, but several seconds later, I realized something unpredictable had happened,” he said.

The steering system was compromised. The emergency sensors lighted up.  The driver immediately reported the incident to the duty officer at the station, and he contacted the police.

In fact, an explosive device had gone off in the train’s second car. There were two passengers in the car at the time, one of whom was deafened by the blast wave. His face and hands were injured by shards of glass.

Despite the fact the energy supply system was malfunctioning, the train rolled into Vyborgskaya station under its own momentum. The wounded man received first aid. Because he had trouble speaking and was quite disoriented, he was almost immediately taken to hospital. The second passenger, a woman, disappeared from the scene for reasons as yet unknown.

An FSB investigative team soon arrived. They inspected the car. It was an awful sight. The bomb had torn apart the car’s insides. The windows had been knocked out, the doors torn from their grooves, and the seats and upholstery ripped apart. The windows had been blown out in adjacent cars as well.

The damaged train was moved onto a storage track, near the Ploshchad Lenina subway station, where there used to be a depot.

The outcome of the forensic investigation was made public only yesterday. Judging by the blast pattern, an explosive device with no casing was placed in the subway car. It contained approximately 400 grams of TNT. The mechanism used to ignite the explosives has not yet been identified.

“It was our good fortune that there were few people on the train at the time of the attack [according to some sources, there were sixteen — Kommersant]. Otherwise, the consequences of the explosion would have been difficult to foresee,” said an FSB spokesman.

The motives and the people who carried out the attack are also still unknown. According to a few witnesses, when the train was stopped at Ploshchad Lenina, several young men dashed out of the car where the explosion would later occur, but no has yet linked the subsequent events with these men. Nevertheless, they are being actively sought by police.

Traffic on the stretch of track between Ploshchad Lenina and Vyborgskaya was restored by early morning on December 19 because the tunnel had suffered almost no damage. Diagnostic work on the tracks and cable conduits will continue tonight, however.

Nearly all police units in St. Petersburg have been on alert since the attack. Security at all subway stations, on public transport, and at other vital sites in the city has been increased. The FSB has established a special task force to investigate the crime.

Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was informed about the incident half an hour after the explosion. According to him, it was hardly connected with events in Chechnya. Mentioning recent similar events in different countries, the governor suggested that “terrorism has, apparently, simply become a profitable business.”

This is the first terrorist attack in St. Petersburg in the last three months, although the police constantly receive anonymous bomb threats. (The callers usually claim the bombs have been planted in schools.) The last time police received an anonymous message about a bomb in the subway was in early October of this years. Traffic on the Moskovskaya-Petrogradskaya Line was halted for ten minutes due to the threat.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Norsu for the invaluable heads-up and having a good memory.

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wanted the alleged bomber
Social network users were quick to join the exciting hunt for the “alleged bomber,” especially because the screenshot image disseminated by local media evoked every radicalized Islamophobe’s wet dream of a “Muslim terrorist.”

Man Named as Suspect in Subway Explosion Turns Himself over to Police
Inna Sidorkova and Vladimir Gordeev
RBC
April 3, 2017

A man resembling the man in a photograph whom the media had identified as a suspect in the terrorist attack in the subway has produced himself at a Petersburg police precinct.

“He saw himself on TV, got scared, and came to the police himself,” said RBC’s source in law enforcement. According to him, the man had nothing to do with the terrorist attack.

Earlier, REN TV and online newspaper Fontanka.ru had published a screenshot of a recording made by a CCTV camera. The image showed a man who, allegedly, had carried out the terrorist attack. The still showed a tall, bearded man dressed in black.

Later, Channel Five published the photograph of a second suspect in the terrorist attack.

alleged suspect
The “alleged terrorist” looks very much like a Russian Orthodox priest or seminary student. Photo courtesy of RBC and their sources in law enforcement**

** UPDATE (5 April 2017). His real name is Andrei (Ilyas) Nikitin, and here is the touching story of how this totally innocent man got booted off a plane in Moscow because Islamophobic, panick-mongering Russian media and social media users had already dragged him through the mud and labeled him a “terrorist.”

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Execution of the five Pervomartovtsy, April 13, 1881. Source: Wikipedia

*Pervomartovtsy (Russian: Первома́ртовцы; a compound term literally meaning those of March 1) were the Russian revolutionaries, members of Narodnaya Volya [The People’s Will] who planned and carried out the assassination of Alexander II (March 1, 1881), and attempted to assassinate Alexander III (March 1, 1887, also known as “The Second First of March”).

The 1881 assassination was planned by Narodnaya Volya’s Executive Committee. Andrei Zhelyabov was the main organizer. After his arrest on February 27, he was replaced by Sofia Perovskaya.

Alexander II was killed on March 1, 1881, by a bomb thrown by Ignacy Hryniewiecki. Hryniewiecki wounded himself fatally in the assassination; Nikolai Sablin committed suicide. The conspirators—Zhelyabov, Perovskaya, Nikolai Kibalchich, Gesya Gelfman, Timofei Mikhailov, and Nikolai Rysakov—were tried by a Special Tribunal of the Ruling Senate on March 26–29 and sentenced to death by hanging. On April 3, 1881, five Pervomartovtsy were hanged, except for Gelfman, whose execution was postponed due to her pregnancy. Her execution was later commuted to indefinite penal servitude. She nevertheless died in prison of post-natal complications.

The second “First of March” was planned by members of the so-called Terrorist Faction of Narodnaya Volya, including [Vladimir Lenin’s older brother] Alexander Ulyanov. On March 1, 1887, they went to St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospect with bombs and waited for the Tsar’s carriage to pass by. However, they were arrested on the spot before his arrival. All fifteen conspirators, including Alexander Ulyanov and Pyotr Shevyryov (the main organizers), Pakhomy Andreyushkin, Vasily Generalov and Vasily Osipanov (the bombthrowers), and ten other people were tried by a Special Senate Committee on April 15–19 and sentenced. The first five men were hanged on May 8, 1887, while the rest were sentenced to prison, exile or penal servitude.

Source: Wikipedia. The article has been edited lightly to make it more readable. TRR

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A 1988 map of downtown Leningrad, showing Zhelyabova and Perovskya Streets (inside the red oval). The streets were renamed in memory of the People’s Will terrorists in October 1918. The streets reverted to their pre-Revolutionary names (Bolshaya and Malaya Konyushennaya Streets) only in October 1991. (Image courtesy of retromap.ru.)

Yet streets named in memory of their fellow People’s Will terrorists Alexander Ulanov and Nikolai Kibalchich are still firmly in place on the grid of post-Soviet Petersburg to this day.

Alexander Ulyanov Street, in Petersburg’s Okhta neighborhood
Kibalchich Street, in Petersburg’s southern Frunze District