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AK meets with Ukrainian attack helicopter crews at the front

Camera view from a low-flying Mil Mi-8 over Ukraine.
Camera view from a low-flying Mil Mi-8 over Ukraine. Source: Kristjan Svirgsden/ERR

ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) got an up-close view of the work of Ukrainian attack helicopters on the frontline in Ukraine.

For security reasons, the exact sector of the front visited by ERR's Anton Aleksejev and cameraman Kristjan Svirgsden, who even flew inside one of the helicopters, cannot be named.

The attack helicopters and their crews are prime targets for the Russian forces; the latter are also harassing Ukrainian ground troops, who need better cover.

One pilot, Serhii, told AK that: "This machine dates back to the 1970s but still performs well. However, with all the new tech in the world, it already needed to be updated a long time ago."

The pilots range in age from veterans down to as young as 21 years of age.

"When I graduated from military school, I hadn't had many flying lessons, we didn't get to fly much," the 21-year-old, called Nazar, said.

"I get experience in real conditions here," he went on.

The aging Soviet-era Mil Mi-8 and Mil Mi-24 helicopters, the latter given the famous NATO call-sign "Hind," need to be replaced with more modern Western variants, as well as jets such as the half-dozen F-16s, most recently pledged by the Netherlands, to provide Ukrainian ground troops with sufficient cover.

The Mi-8 and Mi-24 pilots are highly skilled by the time they reach the front, another pilot, office Oleksandr, tells AK – that is not the issue.

But F-16s and other more effective equipment are needed.

"This is because the enemy air force is highly ruthless. I mean just the way they use guided bombs and the way in which they attack our air force. We need planes that have good radar and long ranges. We need F-16s to ward off their air force away from the front line," Oleksandr continued.

The helicopters can and do fly across the whole country in the course of a mission (the helicopters have a standard range of 450-500 kilometers) flying as low as possible.

Immediately after striking the enemy, the pilots perform an evasive maneuvers and launch chaff and perform other decoy counter-measures.

But for as long as the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to wait for F-16s from the West, their infantry can only count on the limited and over-taxed air support units like the one visited by Aleksejev and Svirgsden can provide. Even after talking to the crews, the latter have to head out again on their next mission.

The original AK reportage can be viewed via the video player below.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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