Mil has completed preliminary flight tests of a modernised Mi-24PN Hind assault helicopter equipped for night and bad weather missions.

The tests were conducted at the Russian army aviation combat training centre at Torzhok 250km (135nm) north-west of Moscow. A Geophizika forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system is installed in the nose of the helicopter.

The Mi-24P is particularly suitable for the upgrade as it is armed with fixed twin-barrel GSh-30 30mm cannon mounted on the starboard side of the fuselage, leaving the undernose turret for the infrared sensors. About 620 Mi-24Ps were built in 1981-91, some of which were exported as Mi-35Ps.

The modernisation programme is driven by experience in Chechnya. The weapons system update - which also includes a laser rangefinder, a new mission computer, night-vision goggles and compatible cockpit instrumentation- is optimised for attacks with unguided rockets and KBM AT-9 Ataka air-to-surface missiles, developed as the Mil Mi-28 Havoc's main weapon.

Meanwhile, Russian export body Rostvertol has completed the upgrade of five Mi-35 Hinds for Zimbabwe. The helicopters were ordered and delivered late last year. Rostvertol upgraded the five machines in Zimbabwe, installing GPS satellite navigation, night-vision and other observation systems, says the company. Rostvertol says it is in upgrade talks withMi-24/35 operators in "the region". Southern African Hind operators include Angola and Mozambique.

Source: Flight International