Amid fierce combat raging in the Bakhmut region, Russian fighter jets reportedly shot down two Mi-8 combat helicopters of the Ukrainian Air Force.
The spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenko, announced on March 4 that two Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopters were shot down by fighter jets of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) on March 3.
Konashenko stated at a briefing that the choppers were shot down close to Suvorovo in the Donetsk People’s Republic and Pokrovskoye in the Dnepropetrovsk District. The announcement comes after a video surfaced on social media showing a Ukrainian Mi-8 and Mi-17B5 firing at Russian positions in Eastern Ukraine.
In a separate incident, the spokesman said another Mi-8 helicopter, 2 HIMARS rockets, and 11 Ukrainian drones were downed by Russian air defenses in the past day.
“A Mi-8 helicopter of Ukraine’s Air Force was shot down by Russian air defenses near the locality of Novosyolovka in the Zaporizhzhia Region,” Konashenko said.
The announcement comes after a Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft was shot down, with dramatic footage of the jet crashing to the ground taking the internet by storm. On its part, Ukraine claimed it shot down the Fullback.
However, OSINT experts differed, suggesting that the aircraft was shot down by Russian-friendly fire, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.
Ukrainian attack helicopters at work
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) March 3, 2023
“On March 3, 2023, in the Yenakiieve (Yenakiyevo) region, around 1:30 p.m., anti-aircraft gunners of the Nikopol anti-aircraft missile regiment of the “East” air command destroyed a Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber,” said the Ukrainian Air Force on its Telegram channel.
These announcements from Ukraine and Russia securing battlefield kills were made even as intense fighting occurs in DPR, in the eastern part of Ukraine. In fact, Russian top brass stated that it dealt almost 500 casualties to Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the Donetsk region.
Video of Russian Su-34 fighter/bomber going down in flames near Russian-occupied Ukrainian town of Yenakiyeve, Donetsk Oblast, deep in Russian-held territory on March 3. Thought to have been shot down by Russia's own air defenses. pic.twitter.com/t58Vi1goIJ
— Euan MacDonald (@Euan_MacDonald) March 3, 2023
Further, these announcements come a day after the United States announced a new military aid package for Ukraine worth $400m that includes ammunition and tactical bridges to move tanks and armored vehicles. Washington is also shipping HIMARS rockets, which Moscow says it continues to shoot down every day.
Further, Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out drone attacks near its civilian installations, reportedly leading to Moscow deploying additional air defenses. The chances of Ukrainian aerial assets being shot down are aggravated in that scenario.
⚡ US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced additional US military assistance for Ukraine
— Bazaar⚡ (@AboutBazaar) March 4, 2023
According to Russian estimates, the Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 394 Ukrainian combat aircraft, 215 helicopters, and about 3,324 unmanned aerial vehicles. These claims could not be independently verified.
However, it is not the first time the VKS has shot down Ukraine’s Mi-8 chopper. The soviet-era helicopter, which is operational with both the militaries, has been extensively deployed in the ongoing conflict. Due to this, several Mi-8 choppers and their upgraded variants have been lost in combat.
The Mil Mi-8 (NATO reporting name Hip) is one of the most widely used helicopters ever built, with over 7,300 units manufactured since 1961. Large numbers of the Mi-8 used successfully in warfare are still in operation.
The Mi-8 is a twin-turbine transport helicopter with a top speed of 155 mph, a ceiling of more than 14,000 feet, and an internal payload of 8,000 pounds.
The helicopter was the mainstay of Russia’s army aviation for a long time. However, it is widely used by the Ukrainian military as well. The baseline Mi-8 is operated by a crew of three people, including a pilot, a co-pilot, and a flight engineer. It can carry up to 24 fully armed soldiers.
The Soviets unveiled an improved Mi-8 in 1977 that was more suitable for hotter climates and greater altitudes. It was domestically known as A Mi-8M and exported as the Mi-17 and featured stronger engines and air filters on its turbine air intakes. Moreover, the tail rotor of the Mi-8M was shifted to the left side of the tail.
The Mi-8 or the Mi-17 and their upgraded variants can carry out various missions, including transport, reconnaissance, assault, and command-and-control. The armed versions of these helicopters have small wings with four to six hard points that can be equipped with rocket launchers, cannons, and anti-aircraft or anti-tank missiles.
Before the invasion, Russia had roughly 300 Mi-8s compared to 52 for the Ukrainian army and air force. Ukraine has acquired 20 Mi-17s from the US since the invasion, along with four from Slovakia and two from Latvia. More recently, media reports indicated the delivery of 12 Mi-8 MTV-1 and two Mi-8 T helicopters from Croatia to Ukraine.
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