Since 2014, Russia’s trade has been negatively impacted due to its deteriorating ties with the West. The US even passed legislation known as CAATSA to punish nations, including its allies, that purchase military hardware from Moscow.
In an interesting development, the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) has announced that it will retire its Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters, designated AH-2 Sabre, flown by the 2nd 8th CLA, Poti Squadron, on March 1, 2022, according to a bulletin published by the Air Command.
The chopper, which is now deployed at Porto Velho Air Base (BAPV) in Rondônia state, is a vital military asset on the Amazon border. However, it is expected that the helicopters would no longer be deployed, forcing the Poti Squadron (2nd/8th CLA) to halt operations, The Rio Times reported.
This premature retirement was announced even as Vice President Antonio Hamilton Mourao said earlier this month that Brazil’s purchases of Russian weaponry are hampered by the country’s status as a major non-NATO ally.
“We do not purchase Russian weaponry…The main reason for that is Brazil’s ‘major non-NATO ally’ status. Frankly speaking, I consider this hardly possible. I don’t see optimism among Brazil’s military circles about any kind of deal in this sphere,” the Valor Economico newspaper quoted him as saying.
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He also claimed that Brasilia had previously purchased Mi-35M military helicopters from Moscow under a November 2008 agreement, but that they had “maintenance problems” throughout their service.
It is noteworthy that Brazil is the strongest ally of the United States in the Latin American region and its decision to abruptly retire the Russian helicopters is bound to raise speculations about American pressure.
After President Putin recognized the two breakaway regions of south-eastern Ukraine as independent states, several sanctions were imposed on Moscow which might also hurt its defense exports in the future.
The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) purchased a batch of 12 helicopters for $386 million in 2008. The Squadron’s 12 helicopters were supplied in four batches, each with three aircraft, and have accumulated over 8,000 flying hours.
However, there have been unconfirmed reports that the Mi-35 is a difficult-to-maintain aircraft with limited availability due to a lack of spare parts. The aircraft will be phased out of service beginning March 1, according to an internal FAB document, with the process expected to be completed by December 31.
According to some Spanish publications, the short battle stay is due to a variety of factors. The Mi-35 M’s high operational expenses, convoluted logistics, and lack of manufacturer support are the most pressing reasons for its deactivation, said a report of Frontier India.
Brazil had various disagreements with the manufacturer, and the helicopter was frequently inactive due to maintenance difficulties. There have been challenges in the equipment’s conversion to the US military standard.
The state-owned Russian Helicopters and Brazil’s Industria de Aviacao e Servisos (IAS), a Brazilian air force-approved company, signed a contract for helicopter repairs in November and December 2020.
The Russian company was to offer repair kits for the units to be fixed in Brazil, supply various new components, and repair a portion of the units in Russia, according to the contracts. Individual Mi-35M helicopter repairs were also to be carried out by Mil and Kamov helicopter specialists. However, the decision to retire the helicopter has derailed these plans.
The Mi-35M is based on the Russian Mi-24 helicopter and contains a number of technological advancements while keeping the key attributes of its predecessor, including firepower, armor, and resilience.
It can carry out tasks in low-visibility conditions at any time of day or night. It is equipped with a high-capacity 23mm cannon mounted on a moveable turret under its nose, as well as Ataka air-to-surface missile launchers and 80mm unguided rockets.
The Mi-35M is meant to destroy tanks and other armored and unarmored vehicles, as well as enemy troops on the battlefield and in tactical depth, and to carry out additional missions independently or in collaboration with ground forces, according to Rosoboronexport.
It has excellent battle survivability, design, and system reliability, as well as excellent operational and combat characteristics, making it one of the best helicopters in its class, the company claims.
The Mi-35M military helicopter has reduced stub wings, a redesigned rotor system, updated avionics, enhanced turbo-shaft engines, and a hydraulic system. The helicopter’s cockpit and critical components are extensively armored. It has the capacity to transport eight troops or a payload of 2,400kg.
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A radar warning receiver, a laser range finder, a location finder, a chaff and flare launch system, an infrared (IR) jamming system, and an engine-exhaust IR suppressor are among the Mi-35countermeasures.
It can be used in combat operations in a variety of geographies with high-temperature and high-altitude conditions, and it has round-the-clock fighting capabilities. It also has the ability to operate from unprepared and under-equipped airfields.
The decision of the Brazilian Air Force, even if based on logistical and maintenance issues, are expected to raise eyebrows because they coincide with the worst crisis between Russia and Brazil’s partners in the West.