Russia’s Mi-35 Pilot ‘Outsmarts’ Ukrainian Air Defense Systems With ‘Nap-Of-The-Earth’; IAF Veteran Explains The Move

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has released a video showing the pilots of the Mi-35 helicopter employing a new tactic to reduce the risk of being targeted by air defense fire during their operations. 

The commander of the Russian Mi-35 helicopter with the call sign “Wild Boar” has revealed that they are using the tactic of maximum “rounding” of the terrain to minimize the risk of being targeted by enemy air defense fire. 

The Russian MoD has released a video featuring this tactic, demonstrating how the helicopters maneuver around the terrain. The Mi-35 helicopter pilot explains that the crew uses enveloping tactics to shrink the risk of being targeted by enemy air defenses. 

They adapt their approach based on the landscape and terrain features such as forest plantations, wiring, and other factors. The pilot highlighted that their equipment’s reliability has helped them overcome challenging situations that are unimaginable.

The pilot of the Mi-35 helicopter emphasized that their equipment is very reliable and has allowed them to get out of incredibly challenging situations that are difficult even to imagine. 

The pilot, known as “Wild Boar,” stated that the greatest challenge is avoiding enemy opposition when their equipment detects an attack or radiation. In such situations, the crew relies on their own capabilities to navigate. 

While the helicopter is designed to have limited capabilities, it has never failed them and has been a reliable support during their missions.

Wg Cdr Vikram Raghavan (Retd), a Former Mi-24 pilot of the Indian Air Force, told the EurAsian Times, “Attack helicopters have always used a technique called Nap-of-the-earth (NOE) or terrain masking.”

Raghavan explained that terrain masking involves utilizing the available terrain to prevent being detected by radar or any MANPADS (Man-Portable Air-Defense System).

The former IAF pilot inferred from the videos that have emerged from the battlefield that the terrain in Ukraine is predominantly flat and that Russian helicopters are mostly targeting during the daytime.

Raghavan also noted that the chance of being detected during the day is around 70%, particularly if one is caught on radar, as there are no obstructions that can be utilized for masking.

Raghavan further suggested that in such flat terrain, night operations are usually preferred over daytime operations. During the night, most MANPADS are ineffective because they rely on line of sight, and not many are IR-guided.

Raghavan believes that Russian tactics have not evolved significantly since the development of these attack helicopters in the 1960s-70s.

Raghavan described the Russian Mi-35 attack helicopter as a “glorified armored carrying vehicle” and noted that despite the advancements in MANPADS and SAMs, which can track at low levels, the tactics employed with these helicopters have not evolved.

Meanwhile, the video released by the Russian MoD also showcases the crew of the Mi-35 helicopter executing operations against the Ukrainian forces. 

As per the video’s caption, the Mi-35 multi-role assault helicopters were deployed to conduct combat missions in a special military operation. One specific task assigned to a crew was to eliminate the Ukrainian force’s positions.

File Image: Russian MoD

In the video, the helicopter can be seen flying at very low altitudes, sometimes brushing against trees and wires, to avoid being detected by enemy air defenses.

To avoid being hit by enemy shelling, the crew uses an onboard defense system that interferes with the missile in various radio bands, altering its trajectory and diverting it away from the vehicle. 

The helicopters are also shown firing unguided missiles as soon as they emerge from behind the cover of trees before quickly turning around.

Russia’s Mi-35 Multi-Role Attack Helicopter

The Mi-35 is a combat and transport helicopter developed by Russia, with the primary purpose of eliminating enemy armored vehicles, providing ground force support, and transporting cargo and troops. 

It has a two-person crew and can achieve speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. The Russian military has used it extensively in various conflicts, including Afghanistan and Syria. 

The Mi-35 remains a vital asset in Russia’s military arsenal. Its ability to evade enemy fire and its powerful armament makes it a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

Developed in the 1980s as an upgrade to the Mi-24, the Mi-35 has become a mainstay in the Russian military and the air forces of many other countries worldwide.

The Mi-35 is built for durability and survivability in combat. Its armored cockpit and engines are designed to withstand small-arms fire, while its heavy-duty rotor blades are designed to resist damage from shrapnel and other debris. 

Mi-35M – Wikimedia Commons

The helicopter’s advanced avionics and electronic countermeasures systems protect against enemy fire and make it difficult for enemy forces to track the aircraft.

The Mi-35 can also carry a range of equipment, including heavy weapons and ammunition, which can be unloaded quickly and efficiently once the aircraft has landed.

In addition to its military capabilities, the Mi-35 has also been used in humanitarian missions, such as disaster relief and medical evacuations. Its large cargo hold and ability to fly at low altitudes make it well-suited for delivering supplies and personnel to remote or inaccessible locations.

Compared to a single-seat setup, its tandem seating design allows two crew members to work together more efficiently. Coaxial rotor blades are another element of the Mi-35 that improve flight stability and maneuverability.

According to the Russian military, the Mi-35 is a highly capable and versatile helicopter that has proven its worth in combat and other missions. Its advanced technology, powerful engines, and durable design make it a reliable and effective asset for any military or humanitarian operation.