Russian Mi-24 Hind brought down by missile in Armenia

AvatarBy Dan Parsons | November 9, 2020

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 46 seconds.

A Russian Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter was shot down over Armenia by a man-portable air defense (MANPAD) missile on Nov. 9, in what Azerbaijani forces are saying was a case of mistaken identity.

Two of the helicopter’s crew were killed and another crewmember was evacuated from the crash scene with injuries, according to an official Russian Defense Ministry statement. 

“On Nov. 9, at about 17:30 Moscow time, a Russian Mi-24 helicopter came under fire from the ground from a man-portable air-defense system when accompanying a vehicle convoy of the 102nd Russian military base on the territory of the Republic of Armenia in the airspace close to the Armenian settlement of Yeraskh near the border with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (the Republic of Azerbaijan),” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement first reported by Russian news agency TASS. 

“Two crewmembers were killed, one was evacuated with moderate injuries to the home air base,” the Russian ministry added.

The Mi-24 is a tandem-cockpit — the crew of two sit one behind the other — attack helicopter with a small crew compartment below and behind the pilots. The helicopter in question was shot down near Armenia’s western border where a conflict has been raging with neighboring Azerbaijan over that country’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Video of the moment the MANPAD hit the helicopter and images of the crash site began posting to social media on Nov. 9, showing a bright explosion in the night sky over the Armenian village of Yeraskh.

Russia is understood to have been assisting Armenia in the conflict, with Azerbaijan forces receiving help from Turkey. Both countries are former Soviet republics whose air forces operate the Russian-built Mi-24 and Mi-8/17 helicopters. 

Azerbaijan later on Nov. 9 admitted it had shot down an Mi-24, but said that among high tensions and in crowded, conflicted airspace, its forces had made a mistake in using deadly force.

In an official statement, the country’s foreign ministry said the helicopter was flying in “close proximity to the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border, while active military clashes continue in the zone of the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

The ministry emphasized that the flight took place after dark, at a low altitude, outside the air defense radar detection zone, and that helicopters of the Russian Armed Forces had not been detected in that area before.

“In the context of the mentioned factors and in the light of the tense situation in the region and increased combat readiness in connection with possible provocations by the Armenian side, the combat crew on duty took the decision to open fire.

“The Azerbaijani side apologizes to the Russian side in connection with this tragic incident, which is accidental and was not directed against the Russian side,” the ministry added. “The Azerbaijani side expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the perished crew members and wishes the injured people a speedy recovery.

“The Azerbaijani side declares its readiness to pay appropriate compensation.”

Despite the potential for escalation, later on Nov. 9 Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a Russian-brokered settlement to end the war in the disputed territory, with Armenia’s army to withdraw from the region and be replaced by Russian peacekeepers, according to the New York Times.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include news of the cease-fire agreement.

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