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Russian-built helicopters transferred from Cyprus to Serbia

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With three separate flights of Antonov An-124-100 (UR-82008) cargo planes of the Ukrainian company Antonov Airlines on November, the  19, 20 and 21 from Paphos (Cyprus) to Batajnica (Serbia), all 11 Mil Mi-35P attack helicopters previously in service with the Cyprus National Guard were delivered.

Already in August 2021, the Cypriot publication Politics Reports first reported that the National Guard was negotiating the sale of the 11 ‘Hind’ to Serbia.

Already four months earlier, a Serbian military delegation led by Deputy Defence Minister for Resources Management Nenad Miloradovic had visited the ‘Andreas Papandreou’ airbase in Paphos to examine the combat helicopters and assess their technical condition.

The Mil-Mi 35 is an updated and modernised version of the world-famous Mil Mi 24 ‘Hind’ and is a rather recent reworking whose production began in 2005. The helicopter has an overall length of 21.6m, wingspan of 6.5m, and height of 6.5m. Its take-off weight in ferry configuration is 12,000kg. It can carry eight troops or a payload of 2,400kg.

As a result, Cyprus suspended the operations of Russian-made helicopters last year and, in June, signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters to purchase 6 H145Ms to replace the Mi-35Ps. After all, the EU, of which Cyprus is a member, applies sanctions on Russia, so the maintenance and operation of these helicopters were extremely problematic. In contrast, Airbus helicopters do not have this problem.

On January 18, the Serbian portal B92.net updated Serbia’s purchase intentions, reporting in detail that Belgrade was about to reach an agreement to purchase only 5 Mi-35P helicopters from its fleet out of the initial 11. With the war in Ukraine, the US business magazine Forbes speculated about Ukrainian interest in the Cypriot Mi-35Ps not purchased by Serbs.

News of the agreements for only five Mi-35P helicopters was also reported at the beginning of the year by the Dutch military portal Scramble, and after successful negotiations, the first Mi-35s were expected to be delivered by the end of 2023. That is why, according to the same Dutch source, the deployment of three flights of the An-124 freighters seems to confirm that the transfer to Serbia involved all 11 helicopters.

On the other hand, Serbian President Aleksandr Vucic had already stated last year that his country would receive 15 attack helicopters in two years: 11 Cypriot Mi-35Ps and 4 new Mi-35Ms from Russia, and just a month ago the first rumours about the delivery of the entire Hind fleet had already been leaked on our Telegram channel.

If we consider that in 2019, Russia delivered four more Mi-35Ms to Belgrade, we can certainly say that in the past five years, the Serbian Air Force has upgraded and considerably increased its fleet of attack helicopters to around two dozen units, taking into account also a couple of old Mi-24s available.

The Serbian Army also purchased five Mil Mi-17V-5 utility helicopters from Russia, and the Department of Rescue purchased two Kamov Ka-32A11BC firefighting helicopters. Also worth mentioning is the purchase of Airbus H215 and H145M multi-role helicopters for the Army and police.

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