Two pre-production Russian Mil Mi-28N attack helicopters have taken part in their first exercise and work has begun on the second serial production variant.
These are milestones for the platform in a landmark year that will see eight aircraft delivered to the Russian Air Force.
The pre-production helicopters took part in the joint Russian-Belarusian exercise 'Shchit Soyuza 2006' ('Union's Shield 2006'), which began on 18 June. Six days later, on the last day of the event, the aircraft were used in a joint helicopter group exercise alongside Belarusian Mi-24s.
Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief General Vladimir Mikhailov said 50 Mi-28Ns will be purchased by 2010.
"The first Mi-28N helicopter [has] arrived at the Russian Army aviation combat training centre in Torzhok," he said. "We will receive seven more helicopters before the end of the year and 12 more in 2007. Two regiments will get these helicopters before 2010, including the 55th Helicopter Regiment deployed in the North Caucasus."
Series production of the Mi-28N has begun at the Rostvertol helicopter assembly facility, an incorporated entity of Oboronprom, in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia.
Oboronprom Director General Denis Manturov said the first production lot of eight serial machines is to be manufactured before the end of 2006.
In 2005, Rostvertol signed a three-year contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence for delivery of Mi-28N attack helicopters and is awaiting the inclusion of the aircraft in the national arms procurement programme, which is to be implemented by 2015.