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Russian combat helicopter in Syria may have crashed due to technical malfunction

Terrorists can`t have shot down the helicopter they do not have effective air defense weapons

MOSCOW, April 15. /TASS-DEFENSE/. On April 12, Russian Aerospace Forces lost a Mi-28N 'Night Hunter' (NATO reporting name: Havoc-B) attack helicopter to an accident in Syria, according to Russian Ministry of Defense`s (MoD) press department.

"The helicopter crashed on April 12 at 1:29 am (Moscow time). Both crewmembers have been killed. the MoD is investigating the reasons of the accident. The bodies of two pilot were recovered and delivered to the Humaymim airbase," an official MoD`s spokeperson said.

According to several Russian sources, a technical malfunction could have been the reason of the accident. "The terrorists can`t have shot down the helicopter. They do not have effective air defense weapons. There is a little chance, that ageing or even obsolete man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) deployed by terrorists (such as 9K32 Strela-2 (SA-7 Grail), 9K310 Igla-1 (SA-16 Gimlet) or Chinese HN-5) could destroy heavily armoured Mi-28N protected by jamming systems. 'Night Hunter' can effectively resist to 12.7 mm, 14.5 mm and 23 mm ballistic weapons. Hence, a technical malfunction could have caused the accident," a defense industry source said. He mentioned that the nodes and components of all Mi-28N attack helicopters were reinforced after the accident, when a 'Night Hunter' had crashed during the Aviadarts 2015 show on August 2, 2015.

It should be noted, that technical malfunction (together with so-called 'human factor') remains the most popular reason of crashes and accidents in air forces and army aviation units equipped with attack helicopters all over the world. According to the Joint Aircraft Survivability Program Office of US MoD, the United States have lost 83 combat helicopters during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan from October 2001 to September 2009, including 68 AH-64A/D Apache/Apache Longbow and 15 AH-1 Cobra/Supercobra helicopters, Only 11 Apaches (or 16%) were shot down by enemy`s fire (most by light ballistic weapons, such as 7.62 mm machineguns and Kalashnikov AK assault rifles chambered for 7.62x39mm M43 Soviet cartridge). Technical malfunctions and pilots` mistakes caused 31 crashes of AH-64A/D helicopters (or 45%). 26 more Apaches (or 39%) have been lost out of battlefield due to different reasons. Hence, only 42 Apache helicopters (or 61%) were lost in action and various technical malfunctions caused most of combat losses.

US Armed Forces also deployed AH-1 Cobra/Supercobra attack helicopters in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 15 helicopters were lost within prescribed period. Only five AH-1s (or 33%) were destroyed in combat action. Various mishaps and technical malfunctions in combat accounted for five Cobras/Supercobras lost. Five more helicopters of such type were lost in non-combat actions.

In total, US Armed Forces lost 375 rotor-wing aircraft with 496 fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan from October 2001 to September 2009. Various mishaps accounted for 81% of losses (304 helicopters) and enemy`s actions on the battlefield accounted for the remaining 19% (71 helicopters). Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and rocket-propelled grenades of Soviet RPG-7 grenade were the most substantial threats to rotor-wing aircraft on the battlefield. The combined mishap loss rate (includes both combat non-hostile and non-combat losses) was 2.71 losses per 100,000 flight hours. It slightly exceeded the loss rate due to hostile actions.

Hence. technical malfunctions or pilots` mistakes are relatively popular reasons of accidents and they still cause most of rotor-wing aircraft losses on the modern battlefield. The recent crash of one Russian Mi-28N helicopter in Syria should be reviewed in this context, according to Russian military analysts polled by TASS Agency.

The article was published on the 'Russian Defense & Technologies' newswire.

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