[image: Watch: Latest addition to Pakistan Army’s arsenal]
ISLAMABAD: Earlier this month, *Quwa <link>*reported that the Pakistan Army Aviation (PAA) had begun receiving the Russian built-Mi-35M attack helicopters. The purchase of four attack helicopters, costing $153 million, may not seem enough but it symbolises Pakistan’s desire to maintain a robust arsenal and avoid reliance on a single source for arms imports.
Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan, in an interview to Russia’s *Sputnik <link>* expressed further interest in purchasing more Russian military hardware.
The Mi-35M is an advanced version of the legendary Mi-24V helicopter and has been in production by Rostvertol since 2005. Powered by two VK-2500 turbo shaft engines, the gunship can travel at a maximum speed of 310 km/h with a maximum take-off weight of 11,500 kg. It also has a range of 450 kilometres.
The gunship is equipped with advanced avionics, multi-function colour dispays, fiberglass rotor blades, thermal imaging sight systems and a fixed landing gear that helps absorb some of the shock from emergency landings. Some of these features also imbue it with increased maneuverability.
Nicknamed the ‘Flying-tank’ because of its sturdy build and armour, the gunship can carry a vast array of weapons depending on the mission. It can be armed on 16-hard points with guided/ unguided rockets, anti-tank missiles for targeting armoured units and anti-aircraft missiles for aerial engagements. A 23 mm twin-barreled gun is also installed in front of the Mi-35M.
Improved sensor package also allows the pilot to fly the aircraft during day or night in varying weather conditions. It is also capable of flying over mountainous terrain due to its ability to fly at high altitudes, which makes it ideal for Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations.
In terms of defences, it can be eqquiped with a radar-warning receiver, an Infra-red jamming system, a chaff/ flare dispenser and an engine-exhaust IR suppressor.
Perhaps the most unique ability of the Mi-35M is that it also has a transport cabin that can carry eight fully-armed paratroopers which makes it ideal for inserting special forces units behind enemy lines. The gunship can also ferry small-arms ammunition or perform medical evacuations. Attaching an external sling on the chopper can increase its weight carrying capacity to 2400 kg. Such features can allow the Pakistan Army to insert Special Services Group (SSG) troops at elevated, inaccessible locations or behind enemy lines and then provide air cover.
The Mi-35M, across its developmental history, has experienced combat in varying regions of the world, including most recently, the Syrian Civil War.
At $ 153 million dollars, the relatively in-expensive deal can potentially allow the Pakistan Army to purchase more of the aircraft in batches.