PICTURES: Brazilian air force fields first Mi-35M attack helicopters

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Brazil's air force put its first three Mil Mi-35Ms into service on 17 April, with the type representing its first dedicated attack helicopter capability.

Now designated as AH-2 Sabres, the aircraft have been assigned to the 8th Group's 2nd squadron at Porto Velho air base. The unit previously operated locally assembled Eurocopter AS350BAs from Recife.

 
© Brazilian air force

Brazil signed a contract worth more than $360 million in October 2008 to acquire 12 Mi-35Ms, plus training services, spare parts and a five-year package of support. It selected the type following a competition with the AgustaWestland AW109 and AW129 and Eurocopter's Tiger.

Deliveries are expected to conclude by late 2011, with the aircraft - which is also the Brazilian military's first Russian-built type - to primarily perform border surveillance tasks. The squadron will routinely deploy detachments to airfields close to the Bolivian and Colombian borders, the air force says.

 

Both images © Brazilian air force

The AH-2 Sabre is armed with a fixed NPPU23 23mm cannon and will initially use Russian 9M120 Ataka air-to-surface missiles, with the 9M114 Shturm also being considered. The aircraft have been delivered with Russian navigation and communication equipment, but the latter is expected to be replaced for standardisation purposes.

Sources suggest that the air force could purchase another 12 Mi-35Ms through a joint contract with the Brazilian army, which requires a similar number.