2002 Khankala Mi-26 crash

2002 Khankala Mi-26 crash

Infobox Airliner accident
name=Khankala Mi-26 crash
Date=August 19, 2002
Type=shoulder-launched missile
Site=Khankala, Chechnya
Fatalities=127
Injuries=
Aircraft Type=Mil Mi-26
Operator=Russian Armed Forces
Tail Number=
Passengers=147
Crew=5
Survivors=25

On August 19, 2002, a Russian-made Igla shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile hit an overloaded Mil Mi-26 helicopter, causing it to crash-land in a minefield and burn at the main military base at Khankala near the capital city of Grozny, Chechnya. A total of 127 Russian Army troops and crew from the Russian Air Force base at Mozdok were killed in the crash, the greatest loss of life in the history of helicopter aviation and one of the worst disasters in Russian military history.

A Day of Mourning was declared by the Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the catastrophe, which the media called "the second Kursk". [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/2206541.stm Russia to mourn helicopter dead] , BBC News, 21 August, 2002] The separatist news agency Kavkaz Center described the crash as the "greatest act of sabotage by Chechen fighters in two years". [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2204505.stm Russia outraged by Chechnya crash] , BBC News, 20 August, 2002] The crash led to the suspension of the Russian army's aviation commander, Vitaly Pavlov.

Reprisals at Khankala

The Russian military responded to the loss of the Mi-26 (as well as two other helicopters that were shot down at approximately the same time) by destroying an entire residential area near Khankala in the outskirts of Grozny since it was believed that the surface-to-air missiles that destroyed the helicopters were fired from one of the many dilapidated apartment blocks that dotted the area.Fact|date=August 2008

Some military officials said the Chechens who were left homeless as a result of the attack were themselves partly to blame, because they had failed to report that militants were preparing attacks from their houses. The Russian Army spokesmen, Ilya Shabalkin, reported that the action was carried out with the goal of preventing rebels from using the area to lay ambushes close to the Khankala military base. It was also announced that five Chechens "suspected of terrorist ties" were killed during the operation.Fact|date=August 2008

Trials

The helicopter was designed to carry about 80 troops, while the one that was destroyed was actually carrying 147. The commander in charge of the helicopter, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Kudyakov, was convicted of negligence and violating flight regulations.

A Chechen who reportedly helped to shoot down the helicopter, a 27-year old Grozny resident named Doku Dzhantemirov, was found guilty of "planning and carrying out an act of terror" and was sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2004. At his trial, Dzhantemirov maintained that he was not "a terrorist" as accused, instead describing himself as "a soldier of the state of the Ichkeria."

Causes

Technically speaking, the helicopter was not overloaded with around 150 people onboard (weighing no more than 12-13 tons). A standard Mi-26 can hover with a 27-ton load, and can carry even greater loads in dynamic flight (getting airborne with a take-off run). The FAI world record of 40,240 kilograms (~43 tons) is held by a Mi-26 prototype from 1985.

The main reason for disaster was negligence on part of the commanders. As a strategic asset, a Mi-26 giant helicopter must be accompanied by two Mil Mi-24 gunships on every flight over potentially enemy territory. The air cover will provide active and passive countermeasures against heat-seeking missiles and suppress enemy fighters on the ground using missiles and gunfire, thus protecting the transport craft. In the Khankala incident, the Mi-26 flew without any Mi-24 cover, alone and defenseless.

When the MANPAD impacted the helicopter, causing one engine to explode, the crew crash-landed their Mi-26 in the middle of a minefield protecting the destination airport against rebel infiltration. Upon the hard touchdown, one of the mines detonated, and the combined power of impact and blast broke off the Mi-26's massive tailboom. This structure, which is itself about the size of a UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, blocked the Mi-26's rear loading doors, and the ramp could not be extended. Survivors were forced to abandon the burning wreckage via a small swing-door located in the forward right fuselage, but many did not make it there and died in the fire.

References

External links

* [http://www.gazeta.ru/2002/11/06/ArmyrazesChe.shtml Army razes Chechen homes to protect helicopters] , Gazeta.ru, November 11, 2002
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3009015.stm Officer charged over Chechen air crash] , BBC News, 7 May, 2003
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1206452,00.html Chechen gets life for killing 127 Russian soldiers] , "The Guardian", April 30, 2004


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