Russian attack helicopters turned the tide against the LRA – UPDF

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The Uganda People’s Defence Force’s (UPDF’s) Russian attack helicopter fleet – which now includes Mi-28NEs –  helped turn the tide in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Ugandan military has said.

Ugandan Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Charles Okidi, said “there is no doubt that the introduction of the attack helicopters into the battlefield changed the tides of war in Northern Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in favour of the UPDF and continue to do so in the subsequent operations. So, with the acquisition of new air assets, we are ready to serve our beloved country more in that capacity.”

Okidi was speaking on 22 March during a passing out parade for 12 newly qualified Mi-28NE pilots and 52 technicians who had completed an eight months training course at Soroti Air Force Wing. Okidi commended them for their discipline and resilience during training and urged them to ensure the safety of the newly acquired aircraft.

Okidi added that continuous training would help the Air Force provide the much-needed air power for joint operations in supporting ground operations.

Mi-28NEs were for the first time seen in Uganda in June 2022 during a visit to Entebbe Air Base by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who was there to thank members of the Air Force for their assistance in neutralising ADF rebels during Operation Shujaa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfers database, Uganda ordered six Mi-28s in 2020, and three were delivered last year.

The Mi-28 first flew in November 1982 as a replacement for the Mi-24/25. The Mi-28N Night Hunter day/night version flew in November 1996 and features a radar mounted on the rotor mast. The Mi-28N is armed with up to 16 Shturm and Ataka anti-tank missiles. Shturm is a short-range, radio command-guided missile while the Ataka missile’s guidance is by narrow radar beam. Maximum range of the missile is 8 km. The helicopter can also carry 80 mm or 122 mm rockets and gun pods. The helicopter is equipped with a turreted 30 mm cannon.

Other Mi-28 operators include Algeria, Iraq, and Russia.

The UPDF has about a dozen Mi-24/35 attack helicopters in service along with several Mi-8/Mi-17s, several AB 206 Jet Rangers, half a dozen Bell 205s, and a couple of Bell 212 helicopters. Five refurbished Huey II helicopters were delivered from 2017.

In January 2022, Museveni commissioned a helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility, which is refurbishing UPDF Mi-24 helicopters. The facility at Nakosongola Air Base is a joint venture by the UPDF’s commercial arm, the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), and Pro-heli International, a Russian company.