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There are more Mil Mi-8 and its variants in the world than any other helicopter models.
The Mil Mi-8 is known for its versatility, low operating cost, ease of maintenance, strength, and lifting abilities.
Although the Mil Mi-8 is primarily a troop transport, it has been used as a water bomber, by civil aviation for tourist flights, for freight and passenger transport, for search and rescue, as a gunship, assault helicopter, anti-tank and anti-armor helicopter, and for airborne early warning and control.
The origins of the Mil Mi-8 date back to the 1960's as an improvement and upgrade over existing models. It has since undergone numerous revisions while being used primarily by the Soviet Armed Forces. These helicopters have six hard points which can hold over 3,000 lbs. of ordnance and are capable of carrying an additional 3,000 lbs. of ordnance within their cabins. They are often equipped with cockpit armor, IR and RF jamming equipment, exhaust gas deflectors, flare and chaff dispensers.
Engines used by the Mil Mi-8 have been proven reliable and economical to operate in adverse conditions, including high heat and altitudes. The anti-torque rotor of the Mil Mi-8 is on the right side of the tail, unlike the export version that has its tail rotor on the opposite side.
Loading of the Mil Mi-8 is facilitated by wide doors in the rear of the fuselage that can accommodate large vehicles, while allowing troops to quickly exit the helicopter. It is not uncommon for the Mil Mi-8 to transport up to 28 combat equipped troops or twelve stretchers.
Versions of the Mil Mi-8 are used for maritime patrol and anti-submarine duties. Czechoslovakia, Hungry and Russia have equipped a number of Mil Mi-8 helicopters for command and control. The helicopter has seen action in Afghanistan, Angola, Chechnya, Egypt, Mozambique, and Nicaragua.
A number of Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopters are being fitted for cold climate operation. This includes more powerful engines, de-icing systems, cockpit insulation, ski landing gear, and a 30 kW power unit for cockpit heating and additional electric power.
Over 17,000 Mil Mi-8 helicopters of all versions have been produced to date, with many being exported outside of Russia.