Dubai: The Mi-17V5 military/transport helicopter that crashed killing Indian Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and 12 others on board on Wednesday is an advanced aircraft made by Russia’s state-owned Rosoboronexport. It is one of the latest and top of the line iterations of the Mi-8/17 series. More than 60 countries have versions of this chopper in their militaries.
The helicopter had taken off from the Sulur Air Force Station, Tamil Nadu and was on its way to Wellington in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
According to Rosoboronexport, the Mi-17V5 is designed to carry personnel, cargo and equipment inside the cargo cabin or on an external sling. It can also be used to drop tactical air assault forces and reconnaissance and sabotage groups, and be used ferry the wounded.
It can be adapted to be used as an attack helicopter as it can be armed to destroy ground targets. Its armament system includes unguided rockets, cannons, and small arms. Rosoboronexport’s helicopter is fitted with a self-defence system against heat-seeking missiles, heavily-armoured cockpit, vital systems and components, and enhanced survivability.
80 helicopters for $1.3 billion
India had placed an order for 80 Mi-17V5s in 2008, for a cost of $1.3 billion. The initial batch was delivered in 2013, and the final batch arrived in 2018. India routinely uses it to ferry VVIPs, including the Prime Minister.
The Mi-17V5 is popular because it boasts operability in any geographical and climatic conditions, day and night, in adverse weather, high-altitude and hot conditions. It is versatile - having the capability to effectively perform assault/transport and combat tasks during one mission sortie. It has the ability to land on unprepared sites at night and in limited adverse weather conditions, and high target approach accuracy through the use of a satellite navigation system.
America’s purchase - for Afghanistan, Pakistan
Such is the popularity of this line of choppers that even the United States has purchased it - for the air force of its allied former government in Afghanistan which collapsed this year in the face of a Taliban blitzkrieg and, in one instance, for Pakistan, to help it with its war on terror.
The Mi-17V5 weighs 13,000kg, and can carry a payload of 4,000kg. On the standard fuel tank, it can travel up to 675km, but with two additional fuel tanks, this range is easily extended to 1,180km. It can accommodate up to 36 people, in addition to the three crew members.