Mali’s Air Force has taken delivery of another two Mi-35 attack helicopters from Russia, as part of a 2016 order for four.
Photos of the delivery show Russian personnel with the aircraft. The registration (TZ-12H) of one of the helicopters was visible – registrations for the first two are TZ-13H and TZ-14H.
The handover took place on 12 January at Air Base 101 adjacent to Bamako–Sénou International Airport in a ceremony attended by defence minister Sadio Camara, Russia’s defence attache, Vice President Assimi Goita and other dignitaries.
An Mi-35M in what appeared to be Malian colours was seen undergoing test flights in Russia in June 2019. This follows a 2016 contract for four of the aircraft, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The first two were delivered in 2017.
Mali’s Mi-35M acquisition was first revealed in September 2016 when Yury Demchenko, Rosoboronexport delegation head for the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in South Africa said over the next year Russian Helicopters would deliver Mi-8/17 transport and Mi-24/35 attack helicopters to Nigeria, Mali, Angola and Sudan.
Mali’s Air Force already operates a number of older Mi-24s, but the upgraded Mi-35M is far more capable. It features several improvements over its predecessors, such as new avionics with multifunction colour displays, more powerful Klimov VK-2500 turboshaft engines developing 2 200 shp, fibreglass main rotor blades, main rotor head with elastomeric joints, a new swashplate and X-type tail rotor. The Mi-35M’s fuselage has shortened stub wings and fixed landing gear. The helicopter’s sighting system has a thermal imager, TV camera and laser rangefinder and designator.
According to Russian Helicopters, weapons include Ataka-V or Shturm-V ant-tank missiles and Igla-V air-to-air missiles, 80 or 122 mm rockets and a GSh-231 23-mm twin-barrel cannon. In addition to weapons, the Mi-35M can carry up to eight personnel in its cabin or cargo weighing 1 500 kg while up to 2 400 kg can be carried on an external sling.
The helicopter’s self-protection suite includes a radar warning receiver, chaff & flare dispenser, infrared jammer and engine exhaust suppressor.
Mali’s Air Force has grown over the last several years, with fixed and rotary wing acquisitions. In October 2017 Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita welcomed new aircraft into the Air Force’s inventory, including a C-295W transport, two Y-12E light utility aircraft and a Super Puma transport helicopter (out of two ordered). In July 2018 Mali received four Embraer Super Tucano light attack and trainer aircraft from Brazil after ordering them in 2015. In April 2019 Mali’s Air Force received a Cessna 208 Caravan configured for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) that was donated by the European Union to combat terrorism and insecurity.
The new aircraft will be used to support Mali’s counter-insurgency and terrorism efforts. The country has been in turmoil since 2012, when Tuareg rebels took over the north and advanced towards the capital, Bamako.