Al-Qaeda Takes Hits Up North

As the success of US forces wiping out Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, up north, in the Caucus mountains, the Russian’s have been busy beavers as well.  Two weeks ago, Yusuf Mohammad a Saudi national on Russian security’s most wanted list, had been receiving money from al-Qaeda since 1999 when he first arrived to the Chechen Republic.  He was using the money to supply guns and financial support for gangsters and break away rebels.  A 12 year thorn in Russia’s side, he was finally tracked down and killed along with 2 other supporters.  The Moscow subway bombing in March and Moscow airport bombing in January, are all part of the ongoing problem out of this region.

"bin Laden" of the north killed this week in Chechnya

A day after the successful raid on bin Laden’s Pakistani compound, the alleged “bin Laden” of the north was gunned down in the Chechen village of Vedeno in the Vedesnk region.  35-year-old Abdullah Kurd was the prominent Al-Qaeda figure in the region.  A Turkish nationalist who moved to the region in 1991, immediately began coordinating foreign rebels in a fight against Russian dominance.  What is interesting about Kurd is that his passport has multiple Pakistani visas on it, making it possible that he was traveling to meet with Osama bin Laden and receiving orders from al-Qaeda’s number one directly.  Kurd’s rapid location and death following the scores of information recovered from bin Laden’s compound could be linked, but there is not enough data to suggest that as of yet.


…More Russian Gunships, Tovarishch

Mi-35 orders and exports underway

Russian attack helicopter designs had just reached an all-time high before the collapse of the Soviet Union.  After viewing the success of Western designs such as the AH-1 Cobra, the oncoming AH-64 Apache, and other European designs, they followed suite with some extremely competitive gunships.  But when the collapse occurred, funding for production and upgrades nearly ceased.  The Mi-24 was already in service and one of the most feared gunships on the battlefield.  It was fast, quiet, and flew just above the tree line surprising the enemy while unleashing its arsenal.  Widely exported to countries sympathetic to the USSR, but also many oil rich Middle Eastern nations and Asia.  The collapse nearly suffocated production lines for spare parts, upgrades, and research development.

In the last decade money began to flow back into the Russian defense industry(getting back to 70s standards).  In 2007, a joint-stock company formed under the name, Russian Helicopters.  Russian Helicopters came up with a great idea of combining some of the main Russian helicopter manufacturers, including Mil design, who produces the Mi-24, and Kamov among others.  This has brought up large amounts of funding for future productions and upgrades.  The Mi-24 is now back being a competitive export again, under the version, Mi-35.  The “Hind” as it is known, is a 12 ton gunship armed with cannon, guided, and unguided rockets.  It can hold up to eight armed troops in the back, although the cargo space is usually used for munitions.  The design itself was originally based on the larger transport helicopter, Mi-8.  With a top speed of 208 mph, it relies on its speed to ambush enemy targets.  We witnessed this in Afghanistan during the 1980s.  The Mujahideen feared it because its ability to swoop over a mountain side silently diving down into a valley.  It wasn’t until US supplied SAMs did it force them to fly higher, reducing their “stealthy” approach and overall effectiveness.

Orders outside Russia for the Mi-35 have been placed in Brazil (12), Saudi Arabia (150), Azerbaijan (24), and Venezuela (10) with more expected.  The low-cost of the Mi-35, around $15 million per unit, have made it more attractive than Western designs.  The upgrades are good as well.  Mi-35(M) has a been upgraded with a better engine and electronics, giving it the ability to fight in the dark.  The jungles of Brazil will be suited for this added fixture along with the ability to transport soldiers up the tributaries to battle narco gangsters.  The Hind will be hanging around for a while.

Mi-28N will compete with Western gunships on the market

In the 1980s, the Russians began seeing how effective designs such as the American AH-1 were.  Instead of a transport helicopter mixed in with attack capabilities, they went with a dedicated gunship.  A more sleek frame, the Mi-28 was that upgrade.  This new design gave the Russians the ability to match what the US had just developed in the AH-64.  Though avionics and all-weather combat capability would be limited as to their American counterpart, the Russians were heading in the right direction.  With the defense cuts in the 90s, the “Havoc” saw itself starving of the needed upgrades to compete on the market.  This slow growth in the 90s did get progress done.  The Mi-28 was eventually upgraded to Mi-28N, meaning a all-weather combat effectiveness and the ability to play rocket-tag in the dark of night.  This was the necessary addition to compete with Western helicopters in Europe and America.

With deliveries first being made to the Russian Army in 2006, 24 are now in service (it may be one short of that due to a recent crash resulting in the death of one pilot).  Russia plans to continue to stock its fleet with M-28N’s over the next few years, totally replacing the Mi-24.  Venezuela is currently the only other nation with orders for the Havoc (10).  It’s cost is attractive as well at under $20 million.  With profits coming in from the Mi-35M exports, the Russians will be able to quickly procure more Mi-28’s.  I expect many more orders for this helicopter.

Another Russian gunship program that has risen from a coma, is the Ka-50/52.  The Kamov helicopter has two designs.  The Ka-50 is a single seat operated gunship, allowing the pilot to operate as both navigator and gunner.  Ka-52, being the two seat version, allowing responsibilities to be shared amongst two navigators.  The design also features a typical Kamov trait.  Coaxial designed rotors allow the helicopter to hover much easier and steadier, especially in heavy winds or landing on ships.  This feature can also damn the attack helicopter as it turns and climbs in combat manuevers at high rates of speed.  The possibility of rotor collisions increase under these extreme conditions.  During the fund starved 90s, the Israelis came to the aid of Kamov.  The Israeli’s  tried to improve on the design, but it was canceled due to the success of the American AH-1 Super Cobra.

Ka-50/52 under production for the Russian Air Force

The Ka-50 was eventually purchased and delivered to the Russian Air Force in 2006.  With 15 being the single seat Ka-50, and 10 being the two-seat Ka-52.  It has a limited operational history, with use in Chechnya in 2000.  These however were production models at the time.  The gunship packs a heavy punch and is faster than the Mi-24.  The Indian Air Force has ordered Ka-50/52s along with Mi-28s in 2008.  The deal did not go through and India stuck with just the Mi-28N and American AH-64Ds.  They will play around with the two and decide which route they would like to take.

The orders for Ka-50/52 are still coming in from the Russian Air Force as of now, with production underway.  The Russians seem to know what they want out of this gunship.  I don’t understand why considering the promising future of the Havoc.  The coaxial rotor system seems awesome for maritime operations such as anti-submarine warfare, but leaves high-risk results over hostile terrain.  With all the orders still flowing in from other countries wanting Mi-35’s, I guess there is no reason they shouldn’t keep producing them.  The Russian low-cost, but highly reliable trend seems to be paying off.  AH-64D’s are the most dangerous gunship on the battlefield, but maintaining them are a nightmare.  Not many industrially wealthy nations such as the US and Britain can afford to maintain them effectively.  However, the Apache is so effective in war that it will certainly still cause strong competition, despite the cost.  I expect to see the cheaper Mi-28N having a breakout decade with the Ka-52 tagging along.

Weekly Mil-Tech Update.

New Helmet to Improve Soldier’s Safety.

Images of China’s New Carrier-Based J-15 Surface.

Apaches Get Ground Fire Detection System.

Iran Arms Hovercrafts.

NG Begins Testing New Multi-Function Active Sensor.

Raytheon Wins Artillery Shell Deal.  Energy Weapons Arm Ships.

 Russia Successfully Test Launches Ballistic Missile.

Raytheon Awarded Contract for Patriot Missile Upgrades.

New Army Lakota Helicopters Loaded with Gear.

SAAB Wins Order for New AT-4 Upgrade.

Researchers Create Invisibility Cloak.

Indonesia Launches Fast Missile Boat.

Rafael Develops “Silver Sparrow” Missile.

Iran: What's Next? Missile Motorcycles?