How the Ukraine War has exposed the vulnerability of helicopters

Russia’s invasion began with a helicopter-borne assault on an airport outside Kyiv. Since then, helicopters have been vulnerable to battlefield air defence systems. Tim Ripley investigates

The formation of ten Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopters touched down almost simultaneously in the middle of the main runway of Antonov International Airport in the Kyiv suburb of Hostomel. Within minutes hundreds of Russian paratroopers were in position on the ground.

Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters provided close air support for VDV units on all fronts in the Ukraine war.
Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters provided close air support for VDV units on all fronts in the Ukraine war. Russian Ministry of Defence

A senior officer then rose and signalled to the paratroopers to move towards the terminal building and surrounding hangers. The Russians were soon clearing the buildings. Anti-tank missile teams were setting up their weapons, ready to repel the inevitable Ukrainian counter attack. A couple of parked airliners were on fire further down the airfield. Overhead Kamov Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters were circling and occasionally engaging a couple of Ukrainian BTR armoured vehicles wheeling around personnel carriers outside the airport perimeter fence.

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