Farewell to ´flying tank´ – final live-fire training of the Czech Mi-24 helicopters

At the beginning of June, the 221st Helicopter Squadron (221. vrtulníková letka) of the Czech Air Force performed the last live-fire training with their Mi-24V (NATO reporting name Hind) attack helicopters. The exercise was held at Boletice training ground in South Bohemian Region.

That final live-fire training officially marked the end of the forty-five years long operational service of the Mi-24 rotorcraft in Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic. They story began in August of 1978, when the first Mi-24D helicopters were introduced into service in the 51st Helicopter Regiment in Prostějov.

Until 1982, the then Czechoslovak People´s Army purchased twenty-eight rotorcraft of that type. Then, between 1985 and 1989, additional thirty-one aircraft were acquired, this time representing the modernized Mi-24V variant, as well as additional two Mi-24DU training helicopters.

At dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the newly established Czech country received a share of sixteen Mi-24Ds, twenty Mi-24Vs and one Mi-24DU. They were operated by the Czech Air Force for another ten years but, starting from 2003, those rotorcraft were being successively retired. Soon after, they were succeeded by seventeen new Mi-24 helicopters acquired from Russia.

The delivery was agreed within the binational repayment agreement, settling the Russian debt against the Czech Republic and originating already from the Soviet Union era. In 2003, the first batch of seven Mi-24 arrived, followed by ten more Hinds, received in 2005/2006.

The helicopters acquired by the Czech Republic were of the modernized Mi-24V variant, sometimes also designated Mi-35. Nevertheless, the latter meant only an alternative, export name for the Mi-24V – therefore should not be confused with current, significantly upgraded variant of the Russian attack helicopter, officially known as Mi-35M.

On 1st October 2008, all the new Czech Mi-24V helicopters were assigned to the 221st Helicopter Squadron. The unit was officially established as a result of reform of the Czech Air Force, by re-naming the already existing 231st Helicopter Squadron and transferring it from Přerov air base to new home location in Náměšť nad Oslavou.

Mil Mi-24V, Czech Air Force, during Dark Blade exercise, May 2019

The full history of the 221st Helicopter Squadron can be found in our article issued in July of 2022, at the twentieth anniversary of the Squadron in NATO Tigers Association.

As the Czech Armed Forces informed in their official release, during their final live-fire exercise the Czech Mi-24s completed sixteen flying hours and fired 640 machine gun rounds, 800 cannon rounds and 239 unguided S-8 rockets. That, relatively low, number of flying hours was achieved thanks to Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) arranged at the training area, just five minutes away from the shooting range.

According to the official information, the final, night live-fly training flight of the Czech Mi-24V was performed by the crew of Capt. Jaroslav Šimek, Sr. Lt. Jaroslav Palička and Sgt. Maj. Pavel Solař.

In conclusion, the official Hind Solo Display Team of the Czech Air Force should be also mentioned. For many years, the Czech Mi-24 performed spectacular flying displays at domestic and international air shows. Many of those performances were flown with helicopters carrying the special ´Tiger livery´, of which the 221st Squadron was worldwide famous among aviation enthusiasts.

Regrettably, the retirement of the Mi-24V from the Czech Air Force means, also the end of the Display Team. During this year, the Hinds are performing their final air show tour, for the last time visiting some main aviation events in the region.

In May, the Hind Solo Display Team said goodbye to visitors of open doors day at Čáslav air base and spectators gathered in Pardubice, during the 31st edition of Aviatická pouť air show. According to some information, the Czech Mi-24 is going to appear at Slovak International Air Fest and NATO Days in Ostrava. Both events will be held in September and mean the last opportunity to see the Czech Hind during public display.

Official withdrawal of the Czech Mi-24 from operational service is planned for the end of this year. Then, the ´flying tank´ will be succeeded by UH-1 Venom and AH-1Z Viper rotorcraft. The first Czech AH-1Z was already successfully flown in the United States and its delivery to Náměšť nad Oslavou is expected to happen in a few weeks.

Hind Solo Display Team concluding the farewell display at Čáslav, May 2023