Title: The Mi-2 Helicopter
Authors: Michal Fiszer, Jerzy Gruszczynski, and Tomasz Bylica (Translation - Polish to English)
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In 1969 two more military variants of the Mi-2 appeared almost at the same time. They were the rescue variant and the armed variant. The first to appear was the Mi-2RM rescue variant, delivered to the Navy Aviation as early as 1969. Serial numbers of that variant began with „55". Helicopters in that variant had an auxiliary fuel tank in the cabin, a 250-270 kg compressed-air hoist, either Finnish or French, installed in a special fairing over the passenger cabin door, external outriggers installed on the sides of the fuselage, replacing the standard external fuel tanks, for carrying illumination and signal bombs (day-time OMAB-25-12D's or night-time OMAB-25-8N's, a total of six could be carried), a rescue raft, an external hook system for raft towing, four searchlights combined into one battery of lights, a stretcher, and a first aid kit. In 1975 tests were continued with emergency floats for the helicopter (the first such tests were conducted already on an SM-2), but ultimately they never made it to regular operation. A total of 16 Mi-2RM's were built. Initially, all them were put in service with the 28th Rescue Squadron at Darlówko and the 18th Liaison and Rescue Squadron at Gdynia.

The Mi-2RL, the rescue variant for overland operations, appeared much later. The first helicpter in that variant (serial numbers of that variant also began with „55", the first was S/N 554435115) was made in November, 1975. Altogether, a total of 10 heicopters in this variant were built for the Polish military. Several other units were converted from other versions. The equipment of the Mi-2RL included a smaller hoist, the 120 kg LPG-4, installed on the port side of the fuselage, above and slightly aft of the passenger door, a battery of searchlights, a stretcher, a rope ladder, a first aid kit, and a life buoy. The Mi-2RL's went mainly to the OPK (air defence) units, responsible for rescue operations within the Polish territory. Therefore, they were delivered to the 42nd (Warszawa-Bemowo), 43rd (Bydgoszcz) and 44th (Wroclaw) OPK Liaison Aviation Squadrons.

Mi-2URP-G Mi-2URP-G with full armament - four "Malutka" anti-tank missiles (AT-3) and four Polish made "Grom" air-to-air missiles (version of manportable missile). Taken by: Milosz Rusiecki

As has been mentioned earlier, the armed variant of the helicopter appeared almost at the same time as the Mi-2RM sea rescue variant. It was developed at WSK PZL Swidnik during the years 1967-69, by a team headed by Boleslaw Skwara, MEng. The appearance of that variant resulted from the favourable assessment of the American experience with the operational application of combat helicopters in Vietnam. Initially, following the Americans, it was decided to use projectile weapons on the helicpters, comprising mainly machine guns and unguided rockets. Such was the requirement of the military, although the requirement was not really based on a careful analysis of the conditions under which the Americans used their helicopters in Vietnam, as compared to the conditions of the Central European Combat Theatre.

Swidnik did a good job of meeting that requirement, initially building a variant armed with two Mars-2 rocket launchers, each with 16 cal. 57 mm S-5 rockets, two PK 7.62 mm forward-firing machine guns installed on the sides of the fuselage, with two more 7.62 mm machine guns in the cabin windows - one each side. Two prototypes of that variant were built, serial numbers 561046059 i 561047059. As can be seen from the serial numbers, they were built in May, 1969. In fact, it was not long that they flew with that variant of weapons fit, as it was soon discovered that an overloaded helicopter had to have severe operational limitations. Additionally, there were plans to add a cannon to the helicopter's armament. Ultimately, the prototypes were converted to a "purely" gunship variant, called the Mi-2US. Its armament included four forward-firing PK cal. 7.62 mm machine guns installed on the sides of the fuselage, and an NS-23 cal. 23 mm cannon with 100 rounds installed on the port side, below the MG's. Each of the fixed PK machine guns had 500 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, two more PK machine guns could be carried, one each side in the cabin windows, with a total of 1600 rounds of ammunition in boxes carried in the cabin. The window-mounted machine guns were operated by gunners. For accurate firing of the fixed weapons, the pilot had a simple PKI (PKW) collimator sight. To provide a record of the results of firing, all armed variants were equipped with the S-13 camera gun, installed on the helicopter nose beneath a characateristic fairing. Altogether, a total of 30 Mi-2US helicopters were built for the Polish military, most of them later converted to the Mi-2URN or URP variant, some to the Mi-2T version, and one - to the Mi-2RL.

The first example of another armed variant, the Mi-2URN (the URN affix denoting unguided rocket weaponry, S/N 562642112), was built in November, 1972, and delivered, in January, 1973r, to the 49th Army Aviation Wing (combat helicopter wing until 1972), together with the second example of the variant (S/N 562643112). Altogether, a total of only 8 new Mi-2URN's were built for the Polish military, the remaining 18 being conversions from the Mi-2US (which made the total number of the variant to be 26). In the Mi-2URN variant the four cal. 7,62 mm PK machine guns were replaced with Mars-2 rocket launchers, one each side of the helicopter. The window-mounted machine guns were removed. Thus the helicopter could fire 32 unguided cal. 57 mm rockets and the cal. 23 mm cannon.

Close to twenty other Mi-2US and Mi-2URN helicopters were exported to Libya and the German Democratic Republic. In 1977, Libya gave five of its Mi-2US helicopters to the Sandinista forces in Nicaragua, where they were used in combat against the government forces of Gen. Somoza. In the course of the Nicaraguan operations it was discovered that the barrelled weapons on the helicopter were less effective than expected, and there is a possibility that it had some bearing on the fact that all the Polish Mi-2US helicopters were converted to the Mi-2URN standard.

Mi-2 Liaison MI-2 in liaison variant (former armed version which could be recognized by battery placed in the outside box below the tailboom root) from 49th Combat Helicopters Wing. Taken by: Michal Fiszer

Around 1970, a team from the Military Institute of Technology and Weapons, together with specialists from the Warsaw Technical University, PZO (a state company dealing with optics) and WSK PZL Swidnik, developed a new, most numerous armed version of the Mi-2, the Mi-2URP. Altogether, a total of 44 Mi-2URP helicopters were built for the Polish military aviation (the final three units were made already to the later Mi-2URP-G specification), and several more were converted from older armed variants.

Replacing the Mars-2 launchers, the Mi-2URP had new hardpoints for the installation of a total of four wire-guided 9M14M Malutka-M anti-tank missiles. Apart from the four missiles on the launchers, another four were carried in the cabin. To reload, the helicopter had to land, and the reload time did not exceed five minutes. The ballistic range of the missile was 3500 m, and the maximum guided fight range was within the 3000 m limit. In practice, however, missiles were fired at ranges up to 2000 m, due to the limitations of the optical sight. In flight, the missile had an average airspeed of 120 m/s. The missile was controlled by an operator in the starboard seat in the cockpit, next to the pilot. The operator observed the target and the flying missile thanks to the tracer installed in the rear part of the missile. The whole process of missile control was wholly manual, which limited the accuracy. In the cockpit, above the operator station, an LL-77 telescope sight was installed (with switchable magnification, x 2.5 or x 10). Unfortunately, even though shock absorbing mounts were used, helicopter vibrations made it very difficult for the operator to accurately guide the missile to the target. Therefore, the most experienced operators gave up on the telescope sight and guided their missiles with unaided eyes. For the same reason, two missile firing techniques were developed - from the hover, and from a brief landing (with the helicopter on the ground the negative effect of vibration was less pronounced).

The first test firings of the Malutka-M missile from the Mi-2URP helicopter took place in the period of May 20th-30th, 1972. Also, missiles with night tracers were tested, in combination with a special night vision scope, but ultimately the night versions was never put in operation. Apart from the prototype Mi-2URP, which, after the tests, went to the 49th Army Aviation Wing at Pruszcz Gdanski, the first 12 production Mi-2URP helicpters were delivered in November, 1975, to the 56th Army Aviation Wing at Inowroclaw, operating in conjunction with the Silesian Area Command. A year later the helicopers took part in a large-scale excercise of the Warsaw Pact forces, the Tarcza-76 (Shield-76), in the course of which the Polish Mi-2URP helicopter crews got better target hit results than the crews of the Soviet Guards helicopter wing equipped with the latest Mi-24's.

Mi-2RM Mi-2RM from 16th SAR Squadron of Polish Navy. Taken by: Jaroslaw Cislak

Subsequent Mi-2URP's were delivered much later, in the period from April 1981 to November 1985, when they went to both the army aviation wings in which they formed combat helicopter squadrons (two per wing), with a third complementary squadron (in each wing) equipped with Mi-24D and Mi-24W combat helicopters.

During that period, the growing number of combat helicopters in the NATO armies caused the problem of helicopter-to-helicopter combat to become a standing subject of discussion. Due to that, in February, 1982, work began on the creation of a „fighter" version of the Mi-2, designated the Mi-2URS, the letters in the affix standing for "armed with homing missiles". In that version the Mars-2 rocket launchers were replaced with twin 9M32M Strzala-2 (Arrow-2) anti-aircraft IR guided missiles. The launchers were designated the 9M32MG and they were given the code name Gad (Reptile). They were developed from the portable shoulder-fired launcher Strzala-2 9K32M. Tthe theoretical range to an airborne target was 500-4000 m. Average airspeed of the missile in flight - 500 m/s. However, long-term testing showed that in practice the range was less, due the effect of guidance cone fuzziness resulting from helicopter vibration, effective missile firing being possible only from the position of height advantage within the rear hemisphere of the target helicopter. Those limitations caused the idea of a "pure fighter" version of the Mi-2 to be given up. The Gad system itself, on the other hand, was kept on as complementary armament for the Mi-2URP helicopter, on which Gad launchers were installed beneath those of the 9M14 wire-guided missiles. The resultant modification became the Mi-2URP-G variant, of which only three were made as new production machines in 1985, other examples being converted in later years from the Mi-2URP helicopters in military operation.

In the period of 1989-1990, when preparations were in progress for the ratification of the CFE-1 European conventional arms limitation treaty, a mistake was made in the interpretation of the provisions of the treaty. As a result, all the Mi-2 helicopters (as well as Mi-8 and Mi-17) were prematurely disarmed. Later on, however, when it turned out the CFE-1 treaty did not limit the numbers of helicopters of that type, the weapons fits were put back on most of the Mi-2URN i Mi-2URP (and Mi-2URP-G). At present the squadrons of combat versions of the Mi-2 are still there in both of the combat helicopter wings.

Also that variant of the helicopter became an export article. In the years of 1990-1992, 22 Mi-2URP (URP-G?) helicopters were sold to the Union of Myanmar (Burma). Those were among the last Mi-2's to be made at Swidnik, and all of them were from production batch No. 112. The last example to be delivered to Burma, S/N 56112460222, was dispatched from WSK PZL Swidnik in February, 1992.

Mi-2URN Mi-2URN armed with two Mars-2 (Polish version of UB-16 pods) from 49th Combat Helicopter Wing Taken by: Milosz Rusiecki

Other military variants were developed on the basis of the Mi-2T helicopter by way of installation of specialized equipment. One example was the Platan (Sycamore tree) aerial mining system. It was designed for rapid aerial mining of approaches on which the enemy forces managed to break through the defence and advanced into the defended areas. The Platan aerial mining system was developed, in the years 1981-1985, at the Military Institute of Engineering, and, upon successful completion of tests, was put in operation in 1988-1990. The system was made up of dispensers, installed in the cabin door on the port side of the fuselage, the door window being removed for the purpose. The glazing was replaced with a special metal shield which provided protection for the dispensers during flight to the mining area. The process of mine dispensing was controlled by the pilot by means of a special control panel. Each dispenser had 20 tubes which could hold either MN-111 ground mines or MN-121 surface mines. Each tube could hold either six MN-111 mines or nine MN-121 mines. In the years 1990-1993, aerial mining squadrons were formed, one at each of the combat helicopter wings.

Still another military variant was the Mi-2R (not to be confused with the agricultural Mi-2R), also known as the Mi-2RO („reconnaissance-observation"). The version was designed for general reconnaissance and battlefield observation, and for checking up on the camouflage effectiveness of own forces and trerrain engineering inspection. The equipment was made up of two photo cameras - one vertically mounted in an external pod attached beneath the tail boom base, and one angled, in the starboard cabin window. Originally, only one camera was used on the Mi-2RO - the vertically mounted AFA-39 or BAF-21. The angled-view cameras were installed on some of the helicopters, beginning with 1979. The angled-view cameras were AFA-42/75 or AFA-33/75, coming from Il-28 reconnaissance planes withdrawn from operation. The angled-view cameras were installed on special supports inside the cabin, the window glass in front of the lens being removed.

The first Mi-2RO prototypes had two cal. 7.62 mm PK cabin window machine guns as their only armament. Production helicopters got the NS-23 cannon as well, its installation identical to that on the combat variants of the helicopter.

Mi-2US A rare photo of the weapon of Mi-2US. They are two 7,62 mm PK MG (on the both sides) and single NS-23 23mm gun (port side only). Taken by: WSK PZL Swidnik

The first Mi-2RO helicopter (S/N 563608084) was built at WSK PZL Swidnik in August, 1974. It was then delivered to the 49th Army Aviation Wing. In 1974 a total of 10 Mi-2RO's were built, another 18 were built in 1977, and the final 6 in 1980. The helicopters went to the reconnaissance flights of the division squadrons of army aviation wings.

Still other military variants of the Mi-2 were the „chemical" helicopters, built in two varieties - the Mi-2RS for contamination detection, and the Mi-2Ch for putting up smoke screens (additionally equipped for contamination detection). The Mi-2RS variant (contamination detection) was originally equipped only with an DPS-68 (DP-3) Roentgen meter, a DPL-67 semiautomatic contamination detector, and a PChR-57 sampler for taking samples of contaminated soil (water). Such a variant of the helicopter equipment was designated with the code name Aligator. Later on the equipment was complemented with the RL-75 Roentgen meter, and then the helicopter was called the Pyton (Python). The best equipped was the variant bearing the code name Ikar (Ikarus), whose equipment included a DPS-68, a DPL-67, an RL-75, and the GSA-12 apparatus for automatic detection of phosphoro-organic substances in the atmospshere, and the GO-27 system for the detection of radioactive and chemical contamination. The Ikar variant received also a new ZWG sampler for taking soil and/or water samples, and additonally a 21-A sampler for taking samples of the atmosphere. Moreover, the helicopter was equipped with the KUFW air filtering and ventilation system, providing crew protection against the effect of chemical and radioactive contamination.

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