The Finnish army will retire its last two Mil Mi-8s within the next few months, with use of the replacement NH90 tactical transport helicopter continuing to ramp up.

Assigned to the Utti Jaeger Regiment's helicopter battalion at Utti air base, the army's remaining Mi-8s were introduced into operational use in 1981; eight years after Finland began operating the Soviet-built type.

Although now rarely flown - aircraft HS-11 and HS-13 had amassed roughly 9h in total this year by early May - the Mi-8s still have several hundred flight hours or nearly two years of airframe life remaining.

 Finnish Mi-8 13 - Craig Hoyle

Finnish Mi-8 11 - Craig Hoyle

Both images © Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal

"The Ministry of Defence is thinking now whether to give the aircraft somewhere, or to send them to museums," says helicopter battalion commanding officer Lt Col Anssi Vuolle.

Mi-8s have now logged more than 36,000 flight hours in Finnish military service since 1973, without encountering a serious accident or loss of life.

"Sometimes you have to say goodbye to an old friend," says Vuolle. However, he notes: "The capabilities of the NH90 are so far ahead that we won't be losing anything."

The army is now flying seven of its eventual 20 NH90s at Utti, with deliveries to be completed from NH Industries' local assembly partner Patria during 2012.

 NH90 pair Finland - Craig Hoyle
© Craig Hoyle/Flightglobal

More than 1,400 flight hours have now been recorded on the type by the helicopter battalion. Vuolle expects the unit to reach full operational status with its new aircraft by 2013-14, but says this could potentially be brought forward to around 2012 to provide accelerated support for international operations.

A full report on the Finnish army's new NH90 fleet will appear in the 1 June issue of Flight International, and on
See more Finnish army aviation images on our AirSpace gallery

Source: Flight International