Ukraine crews conduct ‘scary’ missions in aged Soviet helicopters
Such aged aircraft have metal fatigue problems and Ukraine cannot produce new gearboxes, engines or blades, he says. The fuselage is also vulnerable.
“They (Russians) need only one rocket to hit us and the helicopter is down.”
“We need Black Hawks and Apaches. Those helicopters are very similar to our Mi-24 and Mi-8… and they have new types of missiles,” he says, naming helicopters used by the US armed forces.
“If we had Apaches or Black Hawks, it would be a totally different story,” agrees 28-year-old Mi-8 pilot Andriy.
“It’s better to have what the US and Europe have.”
The problem is not just with the helicopters but the reconnaissance systems used to detect enemy positions, the men say.
“The first month was real hell. We didn’t know where the enemy air defences were,” says Andriy.
Even now, Russia “can see half of Ukraine” Anatoliy says, while “we see (only) the most elementary things”.
Vladyslav says he covers his face to protect his identity since Russians are hunting helicopter pilots.
“We’re like treasure in an army,” he says.
“A pilot is a very expensive product” since training one fighter pilot costs over 300 million hryvnias ($8.1 million), he explains.
“(We have lost) many comrades and many helicopters. I cannot say a number because it’s a secret,” he adds.
“It’s a very sad situation. A lot of guys have gone who would have done good things,” says Andriy.
Some Western officials have questioned the effectiveness of supplying Ukraine with the more modern combat aircraft it is requesting, since its pilots will have to retrain for a lengthy period.
“It’s only half a year,” says Vladyslav, pointing to the similarities between Black Hawk and Apache helicopters and the ones they fly.
“When you want to live, you learn quickly,” says Anatoliy.