It´s all over now – a short summary of the Czech Mi-24s retirement

As we have already reported, at the end of 2023 the Czech Air Force officially withdraw all its Mil Mi-24V (NATO reporting name Hind) from active service. At the beginning of June, the 221st Helicopter Squadron (221. vrtulníková letka) from Náměšť nad Oslavou executed the final live-fire training with that type of aircraft, concluding the forty-five years of operational service of those rotorcraft in Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic.

The year 2023 was also marked by farewell of the Mi-24 with the Czech aviation enthusiasts and general public. Throughout the year, the official Hind Solo Display Team of the Czech Air Force performed its final air show tour, for the very last time visiting some main aviation events in the region.

In May, the Czech Mi-24 said goodbye to visitors of open doors day at Čáslav air base and next to spectators gathered in Pardubice, during the 31st edition of Aviatická pouť (Aviation Fair) air show. At the beginning of September, the Hind Solo Display Team had its final appearance abroad with display performed at SIAF 2023 in Slovakia. Then, the annual NATO Days show, held at the end of the same month in Ostrava, was the last opportunity to see the Czech Mi-24s at a public display.

The official farewell ceremony for the Mi-24 crews took place on 15th October 2023. However, due to some delays in deliveries of the new, US-made helicopters, at least four of the Czech Hinds remained in active service until the end of the year.

Eight of the Czech Mi-24s were donated to Ukraine. The first delivery took place already in July of 2022 and the second batch followed one year later. At the end of March 2024, the last airworthy Hinds were transferred to Ukraine. On that occasion, the Czech Ministry of Defence officially confirmed the numbed of already donated helicopters, as well as stated that there were no more operational Hinds left in the country.

CzAF Mi-24V in standard camouflage, exercise Dark Blade 2019

The Mi-24 rotorcraft operated by the 221st Helicopter Squadron were well known to aviation enthusiasts and air show spectators. For many years, the Czech Hinds performed spectacular flying displays at various domestic and European aviation events. Many of them were performed by helicopters carrying the special ´Tiger livery´, of which the 221st Squadron was famous worldwide.

The good news is that one of those special-painted Mi-24 rotorcraft is going to be preserved and becomes a part of exhibition at Kbely Aviation Museum in Prague. It is the helicopter ´3369´ (c/n 203369) that began its service with the Czech Air Force in January of 2006.

In 2021, after its general maintenance, the ´3369´ received a special ´Tiger livery´, commemorating the 80th anniversary of forming No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron of the Royal Air Force. The livery included silhouettes of Vickers Wellington and Consolidated B-24 Liberator, the aircraft used by the mentioned RAF unit in the World War II. In addition, 274 stars were painted on the rotorcraft fuselage to commemorate the number of the Squadron crew members that were killed in action.

The last journey of the ´3369´ took place on 22nd March 2024. During the night, the rotorcraft was transported on a special truck from Náměšť air base to Prague.

It would be great if similar fate met the most recognizable Czech Hind, known as the Alien Tiger. The helicopter ´3366´ (c/n 203366) was without any doubts the favourite of many aviation enthusiasts, thanks to its unique livery created for NATO Tiger Meet 2016. That amazing and one-of-a-kind livery not only won the Best Painted Tiger Aircraft trophy in Zaragoza, but also contributed to instant popularisation of the 221st Squadron all over the world (more information about that interesting livery can be found here, in one of our articles from Photo of the Week series). The Alien livery was so favoured that it was decided to preserve it after the general maintenance the rotorcraft underwent in 2021, except to a few details that were changed in so-called ´Alien 2´.

CzAF Mi-24 in special livery commemorating No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF

Regrettably, this year the decision was made to donate the ´3366´ to Ukraine. Earlier this month, the ´Alien Tiger´ livery was removed and the helicopter received standard camouflage pattern. At the end of March, it became one of the last two Mi-24s delivered to Ukraine, together with ´3365´.

In addition, it should be mentioned here that the Ukrainian armed forces received at least one more Czech Hind that once carried a special livery. It was the rotorcraft ´3370´ (c/n 203370) that in 2015 – at the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II – received camouflage of the Liberator GR Mk IV PP-K ´Kosťa´ of the 311th Squadron. However, that special livery was already removed from the ´3370´ helicopter in 2020, during general maintenance. In 2022, the helicopter was donated to Ukraine.

With delivery of the ´3366´ and ´3365´ to Ukraine, the operational service of the Mi-24 helicopters in Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic, was finally concluded after forty-five years and seven months. In the Czech service, the ´flying tank´ was succeeded by American rotorcraft, UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper.

In 2019, the Czech Ministry of Defence ordered twelve new helicopters – four Vipers and eight Venoms. In addition, as compensation for the Mi-24s donated to Ukraine, the Czech Air Force will receive another six AH-1Z and two UH-1Y. However, the additional rotorcraft will be delivered from the US armed forces reserve and must be a subject of necessary modernization and maintenance before their introduction to operational service in the Czech Republic.

CzAF Mi-24V ´3370´ in special ´Liberator GR Mk IV PP-K´ livery, Memorial Air Show 2015

Cover photo: ´Alien Tiger´ at Aviation Fair air show, 2023