Immediately after the end of the Gulf War, I interviewed the pilot of the F-15E. We sat in a meeting room at the Air Force base in Seyrnour Johnson, North Carolina, and the pilot talked about his wartime assignments. The interview went well; he was proud of what he and his fellow pilots did to crush Saddam Hussein’s war machine.
However, when he began to describe his post-war assignments, his mood changed. In the spring of 1991, he flew over northern Iraq, in the area prohibited for Iraqi flights aviationas prescribed at the negotiating table. But the winners screwed up. The flight ban was limited to aircraft. In one of these flights, he flew over a mountain road clogged with Kurdish refugees. Iraqi Hind circled beneath it (Hind - the NATO designation for the MI-24 helicopter) - Soviet-made combat helicopters, and ... When the pilot told me this, his words got stuck in his throat. I turned away for a moment, sympathizing with him. Then he continued, making sure that I would report everything that he and his partner saw when their plane flew over this scene. I listened with increasing anger as he described how the Hinds circled the road, firing Kurds with machine guns and rockets. "These damned Hind's," said the pilot.
In the next few days, the pilot's story was confirmed by other pilots who witnessed the same massacre. Everyone was disgusted and angry that their command did not allow them to attack the helicopters and save the lives of the Kurds. These damned Hindas ...
We would like to think that with the departure of the Soviet Union, we no longer need to fear the Hind. But the Gulf War proved that Hind had lived its life, having survived the country that created it. According to US military intelligence, about 2,100 Hind's are flying around the world in 34 countries. In addition, it is quite possible that these combat helicopters will continue to be an important export product for Russia. So we must not forget the Hindas.
Senior non-commissioned officer Jeff Staten, a US Army pilot, understands how dangerous a Hind enemy can be.
A veteran of two combat campaigns, a helicopter gunship pilot, Stayton is now flying Hind all over the country, taking part in exercises on a Soviet helicopter to mimic attacks on US troops. This difficult job (high-speed flights at extremely low altitudes) requires an 48-year-old pilot to have excellent knowledge of the machine he never thought to fly.
As a participant in the secret program launched about 10 years ago, the pilot of the American Air Force, Jeff Stayton, himself learned to fly on the captured Soviet Mi-24.
Stayton met Hind somewhere in the middle of 1980's (details are still secret) when one of the American ghost agencies (i.e., one of the special services, DS) received the Mi-24 Hind and delivered it to a remote airfield in the United States. At this time, Stiton was testing a new McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache combat helicopter. And once he was told that he was involved in a secret assignment.
A few days later Stayton found himself in a dimly lit hangar, looking at Hind. “My knees started shaking,” says Stayton, “and my first thought was - Well, a hefty fool! He weighed up the 21.000 pound (9.513 kg) - it's three times more than Bell AH-1 Cobra and about one and a half times more Apache ".
Stayton explored Hind outside for an hour before he opened the cabin door. The stenographers followed him and took notes of his comments, which he had many. He was impressed by the half-inch layer of armor that surrounded the gunner’s and pilot’s cabs and protected the vital parts of the engines and transmissions. He was also impressed by the large round windshields in front of the two cabins. The ballistic engineers determined the refractive index of the glass and calculated that it is almost as bulletproof as steel armor.
What really sets Hind apart from other helicopters is the fact that it has wings. Hind's inclined wings with a span comparable to the wings of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, according to calculations, provide up to a fourth of the lifting force when flying. (Later, after a test flight, they found that they provide from 22 to 28 percent of lift, depending on speed and other factors.) Staten, who grew up at the airport in Kerrville, Texas, helping his father and mother working there, from childhood he flew airplanes and he began to think of Hind as a hybrid helicopter with an airplane. This mental preparation later saved his life.
If you are a pilot, you should always do an external inspection of the aircraft. And if this is a plane that you have never flown, you must be meticulous both during the visual inspection and during the familiarization with the cabin. But as a result, tension begins to arise: you know that you must be methodical in all stages of pre-flight preparation, but all this time you are thinking: “Enough! Time to fly!”
But it's not so easy with Hind. Stateton had an aerobatic guide translated from Russian, but Russians use even more acronyms than Americans, so much of this information was gibberish. However, Staten admits that the management has "filled in all the gaps." In addition, he had translations of several interviews with Soviet pilots who flew the Hind. But they were only partly useful, because the agents who asked the questions did not know how the helicopter was flying.
Today this helicopter is part fleet Soviet aircraft used by OPFOR to train US forces to counter enemy attacks.
"The biggest problem was with the switches," says Staten with his soft Texas baritone. "Since this unit was controlled by a single pilot, all systems had to be controlled from one cabin.
When you sit there, you are surrounded by switches signed in Cyrillic — Russian letters, which our boss called “acrylic,” from elbow to elbow. The engineers determined the purpose of some of them and labeled them with Dymo tape. But the functions of many others had to be determined by trial and error. "
Another obstacle in conducting the test program was that it had to be carried out under cover of night or during “satellite windows”, i.e. at a time when Soviet spy satellites did not see this zone. Within one such window, the ground crew pulled Hind out of the hangar and Stayton started the engine. "It was something," he says. "It was already getting dark and when I launched the APU (auxiliary power unit - DS), I saw an orange light behind me and noticed that the team leader’s eyes were as big as a plate. I guessed that this three-four-foot flame was beating out exhaust APU. It must be a very exciting sight. " (Stayton remarked that despite all the astoundingness, it is nevertheless a normal phenomenon for Hind's APU to spew flames at launch.)
Stayton "taxiing" Hind during the first exit. He did not lift it into the air until the next satellite window and he will never forget that first flight.
"As soon as the cabin was closed, it immediately became quieter," he says. "This is because the containment system was designed to protect the crew from chemical and biological weapons, and not just for high-altitude flight. Engineer Wayne Petri sat in the front cockpit, God bless him. Before the flight, we watched a reconnaissance videotape from East Germany how to fly Hind "The Russian pilots were lifting them into the air like planes, so I took the run down the runway as if I was in Cessna and took off safely."
Flying in the former Soviet Union from 1947 of the year, the An-2 biplane serves as a slow, stable platform for jumps of OPFOR paratroopers at the Fort Polk training center.
Stayton says that he drew all his experience of flying American helicopters, but he wants to pay tribute to the crew of aviation engineers and test pilots with whom he worked. “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I put on Chuck Eger’s hat (the famous American test pilot - DS), went out and did it all himself,” he says.
With regard to the risk of testing the device without direct guidance from the manufacturer, Stayton believes that he did not focus on his own safety. "Indeed, I was most worried not to harm the helicopter," he says. "My receptors caught everything. I didn’t want to be the first to break it."
"I think I would also be afraid to use this damn parachute, which they made me put on," he continues. "The helicopter was in the experimental category and the Russian pilots were wearing parachutes, so I had to, by God, put it on.
But the thought of using this parachute was terrible. You do not jump until the machine is controlled, So why on earth would you like to jump out and get into the meat grinder? It would not make sense. Yet, if I hadn’t jumped out, they would have said, “He died because he didn’t use a parachute.”
Stayton's first flight began normally and he was impressed by the smooth, calm flight. “Then, after about two-thirds of the way, we felt more confident and I started peering into the rocket scope. Well, I just pretend to be launching rockets,” he said. "I pressed the switch, which in Cobra is the rocket launch button. Immediately, we passed three forced changes in altitude, rotation and direction. I entered the Dutch turn (a combination of gliding, twisting and turning the plane - DS) and other maneuvers, which I was not going to produce. That was a flight! " By pressing a button, as he believed, "launching rockets," Staten turned on the flight stabilization system which began to compensate for the previous maneuvering, which led to these forced maneuvers.
American pilots praise the spaciousness and silence of Hind's pressurized cabin
I was with Stateton at headquarters in Fort Bliss, Texas when he told me about his first flight. In front of us was another test pilot, Gordon Leicester, who also flew the Hind. "How about problems with roll angle?" he asked.
The roll angle problem, Stayton explained, was caused by Hind's wings. With a roll with a roll, the wing that is lower quickly loses lift while this force increases on the upper wing. Thus, there is a steady tendency, especially with a slow bend with a roll, to turning the device. In US Army helicopters, Stayton says, he would resist rotation by pulling the control stick in the opposite direction of rotation. But Hind, he says, "just keeps turning. If you try to counteract the rotation of the control knob, then you will roll back and perform the number of the dying cockroach.
Fortunately, when I first got into this situation, I turned to my experience as an airplane pilot and lowered my nose forward. The increase in speed added lift on the lower wing and this allowed us to get out of a dangerous maneuver. The only problem is that you have to have an altitude to restore the flight, at low altitude the roll problem may be critical. "
Slayton carried out his test flights on days when the Soviet Union was the worst enemy and Hind was one of the most dangerous types of Soviet weapons. In those days it was necessary to study everything possible regarding armament. If the American army were attacked by these terrifying combat helicopters in any European battlefield, then knowledge of how they work could be a decisive factor in their neutralization or destruction.
The Soviet OPFOR arsenal weapon is a Kamov Ka-32T Helix transport helicopter and a XM11S self-propelled anti-aircraft missile launcher.
And although the cold war is over, the knowledge gained by Stateton is still highly valued. He now works for the OTSA organization, which represents the OPTEC Threat Support Activity (Threat Support Unit). Founded in 1972, OTSA is now a division of the US Army Operational Test and Evaluation Department, which conducts final testing and evaluation of equipment before it enters service. In addition to the test role, the OTSA provides a realistic threat environment to teach all types of troops to conduct combat. What makes the OTSA training environment real is the use of weapons - exclusively Soviet, with which the US military can face on the battlefield around the world.
Stayton's objectives at OTSA are limited to his aircraft. He is also responsible for the fleet, which includes three Hind'a, two Mi-17 Hips, one Mi-2 Hoplite, one Ka-32T Helix and, among other things, three An-2 Colt. He has to drive around military bases throughout the country, but most of the time Stayton spends in Fort Polk, in the center of Louisiana, where the Integrated Training Center for Training is located. About once a month, an infantry infantry brigade (or equivalent) arrives at the training center and, for about two weeks, participates in training battles against the “local” forces, which are a battalion in size — highly trained and well-trained enemy forces (OPFOR) Utilize the skills of Stateton and the Soviet aircraft OTSA.
I came to Fort Polk last September to watch one of these training battles. First of all, I wanted to learn more about Hind. And although I came with a deep hatred of Hind and innate fear of any aircraft without wings, my other task was to fly it.
I spent a few days with the soldiers of the sixth infantry brigade (“good guys” - BLUEFOR or BLUE) and OPFOR (“bad guys” - Stayton and company), studying how they fight and kill each other. All the weapons systems of the OPFOR helicopter, including the 30mm cannon, missiles, and anti-tank missiles, are idle and equipped with laser equipment. Whenever an OPFOR helicopter strikes a successful "blow" on BLUE, a loud sound is emitted from a laser sensor that every soldier wears. To add more realism to the training, every BLUE soldier carries an accident card and if he was hit, he should open the envelope to find out if he was killed or injured. (I was not amazed, but I looked at my envelope; I would have received a non-lethal wound in my right shoulder.)
Hind is used in training attacks on infantrymen studying in Fort Polk. At his disposal - a variety of weapons, equipped with a laser, which is installed under the wings of a helicopter, including missiles and anti-tank missiles AT-2.
BLUE infantrymen are also equipped with weapons with laser equipment and each OPFOR aircraft has a laser receiver. Perhaps any soldier BLUE can shoot down a helicopter with one successful M-16 rifle shot. But it is much more likely that the helicopter will be shot down by a Stinger ground-to-air missile or one of the air defense batteries; their laser beams are proportionally much more powerful than the laser beam emanating from M-16. If one of the laser receivers on the OPFOR apparatus is struck, the indicator lights installed inside and outside the helicopter begin to glow, informing the crew and those on the ground that the helicopter was destroyed.
In Fort Polk, I molested tired soldiers in the field during their breaks with school questions. Sergeant Willie Sims, commander of the air defense battery, I asked: "Quick! You hear a low-flying helicopter, how can you determine that it is Hind?" Without the slightest hesitation: "Sir! Double cabin! Inclined wings! Large arms stands! Side windows! Special sound, different from the sound of any of our helicopters!" The sixth infantry brigade trained for almost two years to carry out this exercise, and special attention was paid to identifying targets to prevent the opening of fire on their helicopters.
Then I started learning Hind. Like Staten, above all, I was amazed at its size. But after an external examination with Staten and the team leaders, I was impressed with some of his other characteristics. Previously, I thought of him only as a combat helicopter, but behind the crew cabins is a cargo bay large enough to hold eight fully equipped soldiers.
The wings are also impressive. It is easy to see that they can provide a quarter of the lift. But I was told that this design feature allows the 57-foot (17,3 m) rotor to work mainly on the forward movement of the helicopter, making Hind one of the fastest helicopters in the world at 210 miles per hour (Max. the speed of the Mi-24 310 km / h or 192 m / h - DS).
The advantage of this design is also in the fact that the long wings allow you to place a lot of weapons suspension points: cassettes with unguided rockets, air-to-air missiles and even bombs.
I found out that the car has its flaws, or “construction costs,” as my hosts, big fans of Hind, called it. Most surprising to me is that it cannot hang like any normal helicopter. Part of the problem is the main rotor, designed primarily for pushing forward. Another problem is that large wings obscure the flow from the rotor in a hover mode and reduce its lift. Stayton and his colleagues point out that a long hover is not part of Hind's task and that a short hover is still possible. But they also add that no more than six minutes are allowed to hang from the overall life of the engines.
Hind is not a very agile machine, it has what OPFOR pilots call "limited maneuvering ability". This means that the Hind cannot fly nap-of-the-earth, one of the main methods of combat flight used by American helicopters. The Nap-of-the-earth method of attack requires pilots to fly hiding behind the folds of the terrain and shelters like a grove of trees, stop, hang, jump, open fire on the enemy, and then go down again on hover mode. The only way for Hind to approach this tactic is to fly at a low altitude behind the cover of the folds of the terrain, then climb, strike and leave at high speed.
Hind's speed noticeably affects the tactics Stayton uses when attacking ground troops in Fort Polk, where the landscape is luxuriantly wooded and fairly flat, elevation changes from 50 to 100 feet (15-30 meters). “If you are flying at an altitude of 200 feet (60 meters), you can practically be seen from anywhere in the field of maneuver,” says Stayton. "So you have to crawl belly in the mud."
At a distance of several miles from the target, which can be any combination of troops, equipped with ground-to-air missiles, trucks, or light armor vehicles, Stayton and his gunner sitting in the front cockpit are reduced to a height from 30 to 50 feet (9- 15 meters) above the highest obstacle on their flight path. At a distance of two miles, they drop to 10-30 feet (3-9 meters), which means that they can fly below the trees on both sides.
Depending on the landscape and the target, Stayton's attack speed ranges from 100 to 160 miles per hour (160-250 km / h), and the ideal distance for him and his weapon officer to launch an attack is 2,700 yard (2,5 km) away from the goal, although they may come close to 1,100 yards (1 km). After the attack, Stayton and his shooter leave the affected area and, if necessary, re-enter. If Stinger launches from the ground, Stayton may try to escape from the infrared capture of the rocket, flying in zigzags to place trees, hills, or even another aircraft between his helicopter and the approaching rocket.
At the beginning of the two-week training period at Fort Polk, ground troops are usually unable to defend themselves against Hind’s attacks, but by the end they gain experience in knocking out helicopters from the sky. When spending the night in the open in the field for several days, they often run without sleep, which slows down their ability to react. And although they may have been trained to act against American helicopters in their home bases, they have never seen anything flying as fast as Hind. "This thing is not attacking like American helicopters," admires Reginald Fontenot, director of OTSA. "All this is very sudden - at once - BOOM! After the guys even wonder how scared they were. They really felt like a war."
While I was hanging out with Hind, the rest of the Soviet fleet was engaged in a battle that raged around 20 miles in the east. Flew Mi-17 supplying troops, flashed Mi-2 watching the battlefield, rumbled An-2, dropping paratroopers OPFOR.
Finally, it is my time to fly. Although I was not allowed to board Hind during the exercise, I was still trying to achieve this. Stayton was already in the pilot's cockpit when I put on the borrowed helmet and the team leader brought me to the forward cockpit in place of the gunner. I immediately had a feeling of spaciousness as soon as I sat down in an almost luxurious leather chair. I already studied the devices when I was outside. Now that Stayton launched the APU and the car began to revive, I began to think like a pilot. Let's see where the speed indicator, the altimeter? Everything was to my left, but that was not bad; although the shooter had elementary indicators and flight controls, the thought that I did not need to manipulate the pedals, knobs, and switches made me happy.
Through the intercom, I heard Staten go through his checklist. Soon the main rotor blades merged into a spot and the team leader closed my cabin. When Stayton added power to the Klimov TV2190-3 twin 117-powerful turbojet engines and we started the taxiing, I appreciated what he told me about the pressurized cabs. It was surprisingly quiet - even when we got to the runway and the engines gained takeoff momentum.
The overview from the place of the shooter is incredible. You feel as if you are sitting in a glass ball at the front of the helicopter. It is good news. The bad news is that we flew over the very pines at a speed of 165 miles per hour and it looked like we were flying through them and not over them.
Flying fast and low Hind is the undisputed star in the war games in Fort Polk.
Stayton - an experienced pilot. I judge not because we did not hit the trees, but because how smoothly he drove the helicopter through turns, ups and downs. Some pilots have a gift; Stayton is one of them.
We flew for almost an hour and our rocket attacks were imitated away from the main battle. I was all right. With Stayon's instructions for potential targets and definitions of missile launch lines, the flight actually became pleasant. As we were flying through the trees again on the way home, I began to wish that the shooter’s place was also equipped with a control stick so that I could perform some of the maneuvers.
Hind is quiet, smooth, powerful and fast. And in a conversation after the flight, Stayton and his fellow army pilot Steve Davidson made more admiring comments.
"He is hardy like a tractor."
"Put it in the barn for a year, then charge the batteries and you can fly right away. With our helicopters, this will not work."
"It goes smoothly, just like 62's old Cadillac of the year."
"Lubricate it well and you can fly it for hundreds of hours."
Finally, Stayton said that in my opinion serves the highest honor. One day during the conversation, he leaned back and said, "You know, if I wanted to fly a helicopter just for pleasure, no doubt Hind would be at the very top of my choice."
November 1998, XNUMX