A four-nation programme to upgrade up to 100 Mil Mi-24 Hinds operated by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia has been halted due to funding issues, differing requirements and pressure from Russia.

The Czech Republic and Hungary are now expected to link up with the two other countries expected to form a rival camp. Industry has been expecting the proposal to fail for some time (Flight International, 5-11 August).

Bulgaria, which also needs to upgrade its Mi-24s, may now play a key role in the future size, shape and timetable of one of the two proposals as its participation could reduce the project costs.

Poland, which had planned to modernise 40 machines, will now only modernise its 16 Mi-24Ws, leaving its older Mi-24Ds unchanged. Slovakia will only upgrade 10 in-service Hinds, dropping plans to modernise two reserve machines.

Warsaw is expected to move quickly to select a Western avionics integrator, which would be responsible for the avionics upgrade, although Poland's military institute of aviation technology may be given prime contractorship for the overall programme.

The Polish armed forces require the Mi-24 to be NATO-compatible, and could limit bidders to BAE Systems, Eurocopter and Thales. South Africa's ATE, Israel's Elbit Systems teamed with Lockheed Martin and Israel Aircraft Industries, and Russia's Rosoboronexport teamed with France's Sagem, were also expected to tender.

Other plans have been changed, including a switch to Western weapons, with the Russian Kolomna 9M120 Ataka likely to remain the principal missile. This would require use of the Russian GEOS 342 sighting system.

Poland has reserved $15 million for a prototype upgrade, which is expected to fly in 2005. Earlier, Russia and Poland struggled to agree terms for the programme.

The Czech Republic is expected to work with Mil and Rosoboronexport to take its older Mi-24s up to the same standard as the Mi-35s recently delivered as payment for Russian debts.

Source: Flight International