On 26 May, Algeria took delivery of its first batch of Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunter dedicated attack helicopters from Russia. The two recently acquired helicopters are part of a larger order comprising of 42 Mi-28NEs.
The Mi-28NE is a heavyweight attack helicopter capable of carrying up to 16 laser-guided air-to-ground missiles (such as the Ataka-B). It can also be equipped with short-range air-to-air missiles and rockets. The Mi-28 is seeing usage over Syria at the hands of the Russian forces deployed to Latakia.
Although the third user of the Mi-28 platform (after Russia and Iraq), Algeria is the launch customer of the dual-control Mi-28NE, a variant of the helicopter that enables both personnel onboard to pilot the aircraft.
Comment and Analysis
Over the past five years, Algeria has steadily been acquiring big-ticket defence hardware from Russia; in addition to the Mi-28NE, it has also ordered over 40 Sukhoi Su-30MKA and 14 Mi-26 heavy-lift transport helicopters. In the process of acquiring the Su-34 fighter-bomber and potentially even the Su-35. The North African power is evidently a respected market as far as Russia is concerned as even the S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) was reportedly spotted in Algerian use.
It is evident that Algeria is seeking to modernize its armed forces from end-to-end; its acquisition from Russia basically cover the full-gamut of requirements from long-range strike to close air support.
That said, it is interesting to note that its fighter plans have yet to include medium and/or lightweight fighters. The Algerian Air Force was at one point supposed to receive MiG-29s, but quality concerns over the first aircraft prompted Algeria to refuse them. It is doubtful that Mikoyan (with its newer Fulcrum variants) will be welcome, so it will be interesting to see if another vendor could try and make a play.
More broadly, Russia is also beginning to make strong inroads with its new defence market entrants, most notably the Mi-28NE and Yakovlev Yak-130 trainer. In fact, even Pakistan has been pegged as a fairly viable candidate for the Mi-28NE, with the Russians more open to pushing it to Islamabad (compared to the Su-35). The Mi-28NE’s time in Syria certainly helps Russia market the helicopter as a combat-tested system, especially in terms of counterinsurgency.