Giant Russian helicopter rescues disabled coalition choppers

A Russian helicopter has successfully returned a chopper belonging to the Netherlands Air Force, which was damaged by ground fire in the South of Afghanistan, to its airbase in Kandahar.

After being shot at, the Dutch Cougar helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing at an American military camp 65 kilometers from its base. It took the Mi-26, belonging to Russia’s Vertical-T airline, half an hour to transport the nine-ton Cougar back.

Mi-26 Halo

Country of Origin – Russia
Builder – MIL
Date of Introduction – 1983
Blades Main rotor – 8
Tail rotor – 5
Rotor diameter – 105 ft (32 m)
Length (rotors turning) – 40 meters
Length (fuselage) – 33.5 meters
Width – 8.2 meters
Height – 26 ft., 5 in. / 8.1 meters
56000 kg – Maximum takeoff weight
28200 kg – empty weight
20000 kg – Load-lifting capacity (100+ equipped troops, armored vehicles)
Maximum speed – 295 km/h
Cruising speed – 183 mph / 255 km/h
Range – 1200 km with Aux Fuel, 800 km with maximum fuel reserve, 475-800 km with maximum loading
Service Ceiling – 4600 m

“Carrying external helicopter cargoes is our usual work,” said pilot and member of the rescue team Nikolay Palamarchuk. “The thing is that this helicopter is very expensive, and we couldn’t make a mistake during the take-off or landing or in the process of transportation. The terrain in Afghanistan is complicated and creates a lot of problems for pilots and, unlike in Russia, the view here is obscured by dust which also makes matters difficult. Never mind that we are constantly aware that someone could fire at our helicopter.”

The Russian-crewed helicopter has already completed similar missions, rescuing three of America's largest Chinook helicopters including one this October, which received an acknowledgement from President Barack Obama.

The Russian Mi-26 is the biggest and most powerful helicopter in the world ever to go into serial production. It has been serving NATO troops in the country for more than three years. NATO pilots agree that its benefits are unsurpassable.

Percy Dunagin, Squadron Commander of the US Air Force, acknowledged that “They are very simple aircraft and they are very rugged. So they are well suited to this harsh environment in Afghanistan and they are also well suited for the pilots and aircrew who have been flying them for a number of years.”

Russian contractors in Afghanistan help provide service and maintenance to the NATO contingents there, such as The Netherlands.

The entire Afghan Air Force is made up of Russian and Soviet helicopters and planes. They have been a vital part not only of Afghan aviation, but of NATO operations in the country also.

RT’s military analyst Eugene Khrushchev commented on the incident:

“All the Vertical-T pilots are Soviet top guns who have dozens of years of hands-on mountain and enemy fire tested experience in Afghanistan. And you will have to waste time, money and effort to train any pilot from a NATO country or even from the US to reach a level comparable to the level of our pilots from Vertical-T.”

Watch comments from RT’s military analyst, Eugene Khrushchev