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86. Helikopterezred; Kecskemét, August 2 - 5, 2013

Kecskemét Nemzetközi Repülőnap, part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Szolnok is currently the only operational helicopter base in Hungary. On this basis are the Mi-8 and the Mi-17 transport helicopters and the Mi-24 attack helicopters stationed. Also the Yak-52 trainers are stationed at this base. These small planes are used for the elementary flight training the new Hungarian Air Force pilots.

The 1 Transport Helicopter Battalion (1. Szállitó Helicopter Zászlóalj) is stationed at Szolnok and flies nowadays with the Mil Mi-8T “Hip” and the Mil Mi-17N “Hip”. The helicopters of this unit are all used for transporting goods and troops. The helicopters are also used for SAR duties in the country; this task is limited because the country has no coastline. The first Mi-8 helicopters were purchased by the Hungarian Air Force in the 60s to replace the Mil Mi-1 and Mil Mi-4 helicopters. The Mi-8 flew for the first time in the mid-60s and was designed in the Soviet Union to reach the most remote areas under the most harsh weather conditions. The Mi-8 is a robust design which behaves well in extremely cold weather. The Mi-8 would be one of the most exported helicopters which were ever built by the Soviet Union. Despite the age of the helicopter, there are still many machines in use worldwide. The Hungarian Air Force is using 17 Mi-8 helicopters at this moment. The Hungarian Air Force received since the beginning of the 60s a total of 60 Mi-8 helicopters. Nowadays there are 17 helicopters in service of the Hungarian Air Force. The Mi-8 helicopters were always based at the 87 "Bakony" Helicopter Regiment (87. "Bakony" Hercihelikopter Ezred) at Szentkiralys- zabadja airbase. Since the fall of the Soviet Union they are stationed at Szolnok. The 17 Mi-8T "Hip" helicopters which are in use at the Air Force are all based at Szolnok. In 2011, two Mi-8T helicopters were donated by the Finnish Air Force to the Hungarian Air Force. Over the years there were many helicopters sold to countries such as Peru and Ethiopia. There are also many helicopters in storage at various airfields.

Besides the large fleet of Mi-8 helicopters, the Hungarian Air Force has seven Mi-17 “Hip” helicopters in service. These helicopters are all still in operational service and are also stationed at Szolnok. The Mi-17 is the most advanced variant of the Mi-8. The first Mi-17s were commissioned in the Soviet Union in 1977. The helicopter is very similar to the Mi-8, the only major difference is the tail rotor. In the Mi-8 is the tail rotor on the

right side and on the Mi-17 it is placed on the left side of the tail boom. The Mi-17 has a more modern cockpit and the helicopter has more capacity than the Mi-8. The Mi-17 is like the Mi-8 a helicopter which has been exported to many foreign countries and there are still many helicopters of this type in use in the world. The Mi-17 is a versatile helicopter which is in addition to its regular transport duties also used for commando actions. There are two Mi-17s converted to Mi-17N, these helicopters have additional night vision goggles and FLIR pods aboard for special actions. The cargo doors at the back of the Mi-17 are often removed for commando actions; soldiers could leave the helicopter easily during these kinds of operations. The Mi-17 can also quickly drop troops in the water while the helicopter is hovering above the water. It is not yet clear how many Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters will stay in operational service in the near future. Many helicopters are on paper still operational, but they all make only a few flying hours per year due to lack of money.

On the Hungarian airbase Szolnok, the 2 Combat Helicopter Battalion (2. Harci Helicopter Zászlóalj) is stationed. This unit is operational with the Russian built Mil Mi-24 “Hind” attack helicopter. The Mi-24s entered service in the Hungarian Air Force in the early 80s and were a big improvement compared to the former helicopter fleet. The Hungarians had previously only the Mi-2 available; the Mi-24 was an increase of the capacity. The Mi-24 is a heavy helicopter and is much heavier than its Western counterparts from that era. The helicopter is heavily armed and is also able to transport troops. The Hungarian Air Force received more than 30 Mi-24D helicopters during this period. This was the first possession of a heavily armed helicopter for the Hungarian Air Force. The helicopters which were purchased were assigned to the 87th "Bakony" Helicopter Regiment (87. "Bakony" Hercihelikopter Ezred) at Szentkiralys- zabadja airbase. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Hungarian Mi-24 helicopters were redeployed to the 86th Helicopter Wing in Szolnok where they still fly nowadays. The fleet of 20 helicopters was significantly increased in 1995 when 20 former East German Mi-24 helicopters were purchased. This series consisted of 12 Mi-24P and 8 Mi-24D helicopters. The helicopters became in East Germany obsolete by the reunification of the country; Hungary bought them relatively cheap from the Germans. Today there are only seven Mi-24 helicopters in use in Hungary. These seven helicopters are currently grounded due to lack of money. It remains unclear if these helicopters will ever fly again in Hungarian service.

The 4 Training Squadron (4. Kikepzö repülő Század) is the unit which is responsible for basic pilot training of the pilots of the Hungarian Air Force. The unit is equipped with the Russian Yak-52 for this task. This light aircraft is used by the Hungarian Air Force since 1994. There were 12 aircraft bought from the Romanian Aerostar in 1994. The aircraft were new and came straight from the factory when they were delivered. The Yak-52 was developed in the 70s and was used by the Russian DOSAAF for the training of pilots. The Yak-52 is a small aircraft which is very maneuverable and for that reason it is in the civilian world often used as a stunt plane. The aircraft is for such a small plane able to pull exceptional G forces of +7G and -5G. Worldwide, there are over 1800 Yak-52 in service with various air forces and aero clubs. Today, the Hungarian Air Force has 7 of Yak-52 aircraft in service; all are still in use for the basic training task. The Yak-52 is an aircraft which can easily be controlled which makes it an ideal aircraft for the training of pilots. The pilots of the Yak-52 are learning how to perform basic maneuvers and how to take-off and land. They also learn aspects such as formation flying and navigating. When the pilots have completed their training, they will go to the helicopter or fighter training.

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