Mali’s Air Force is set to take delivery of another Mi-35M attack helicopter from Russia, with the aircraft seen undergoing test flights earlier this month.
Mali received two Mi-35Ms in 2017, after ordering four of the helicopters in 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
A new Mi-35M, in desert camouflage, destined for Mali’s Air Force, was seen at Rostvertol’s facilities at Rostov on Don on 3 June, indicating delivery is imminent.
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 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 this year 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.
In 2015 Keita approved a military modernisation effort (Loi d’orientation et de programmation militaire, LOPM) which covers the modernisation of the Malian Armed Forces and the recruitment of 10 000 volunteers. The Malian Armed Forces was due to number 20 000 by 2019. The plan also includes the reorganisation of the Air Force and the purchase of new aircraft.
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.
A French-led intervention pushed them back the following year, but Islamist groups have since regained a foothold in the north and center, tapping into ethnic rivalries between nomadic Tuareg and Fulani herders to recruit new members.