The Discreets

Mi-8R Mi-8R As we saw earlier, some ECM helicopters like the Mi-8MTPI also could perform ELINT missions. However, such tasks were essentially assigned to other Mi-8 variants dedicated to this mission. This was the case for the mysterious Mi-8R (R for Razvedchik, reconnaissance) that apparently was only observed outside the USSR. This helicopter that would have entered service in the mid-1970s basically was a Mi-8T airframe without its weapon racks, but equipped with large fuel tanks. Also, the standard DIV-1 Doppler container had given way to the more accurate DISS-15 model, as mounted on Mi-8MT versions. The rear clamshell doors had a large indentation, and that was for good reason!

Mi-8R Mi-8R The Mi-8R (sometimes designated Mi-8GR) mounted a R-345 "Grebeshok-5" (Cockscomb) ELINT suite (1). The latter operated via a large parabolic antenna protected by a cylindrical fairing with a rounded end located to the rear of the cargo hold - the ELINT suite weighed 1157kg in total. A more powerful PT-1000TsS electric converter replacing the original PT-500Ts powered the suite. The antenna container was stored upright at rest (it protruded slightly through an opening in the clamshell doors). When deployed, it pivoted 180° beneath the belly of the helicopter without having to open the cargo doors.

Mi-8R Vue intérieure du Mi-8R n°22. On aperçoit la cloison du compartiment arrière où se trouvait l'antenne. © K.Kirill family archives

Interior view of Mi-8R n°22. One can see the bulkhead of the rear compartment where the antenna was located. © K.Kirill family archives
Mi-8R This antenna affected the helicopter's flying characteristics due to the shift in the center of gravity when it pivoted downwards and the drag that it created. Another consequence was 11-12% higher fuel consumption and speed limited to 120 km/h. Two or three operators managed the ELINT complex from consoles located to the right in the cargo hold. They were staff officers isolated from the rear compartment and its antenna by a bulkhead with a door with a porthole. To cope with possible blockage of the antenna when extended, a pit three meters deep had to be prepared at the home bases so a helicopter in difficulty could land anyway. In extreme cases, the antenna could be jettisoned using explosive bolts. According to the son of a member of an ELINT crew, the Mi-8R was nicknamed "Slukhach" (Listener). These helicopters operating along the German border sometimes were observed by border guards. Due to their highly secretive nature, they were guarded when on the ground. Three Mi-8R were identified in the GDR. The poor definition of the photo of another helicopter makes it impossible to affirm that in fact it was a fourth Mi-8R.

Mi-8R Mi-8R They were based in Nohra, and then Hassleben (n°22 red s/n 8033 - 298.OVE BU), Neuruppin, then Oranienburg (n°32 yellow s/n 8078 - 9.OVE BU) and presumably Sperenberg (n°81 yellow s/n 2822 - 113.OSAE). By the way, a contributor to a Russian forum mentioned that he had ferried a Mi-8R from Kazan' to Sperenberg in 1980. Another dismantled Mi-8R (n°85 red s/n 8300) was identified in Russia in the early 2000s (> Link). The information in the aforementioned link indicates that it was on strength in Czechoslovakia with the Central Group of Forces during the 1980s. That is quite logical, since that country had a common border with what was once the FRG. A photo of a probable Mi-8R (bort number 85) in Czechoslovakia equipped with large tanks and a DISS-15 Doppler container exists (> Link), but its electronics apparently had been removed. Mi-8R n°81 from Sperenberg would have suffered the same fate in 1991.

Mi-8 Mi-8 Even more mysterious ELINT Mi-8 flew in the skies of the GDR. We do not know anything about their role or mission. Still, we are lucky to have pictures of two of them illustrating this article.
Here is an anecdote from the son of a military member assigned to Stendal during the 1980s. He wrote to us a few years ago that a Mi-8 stationed at this airfield had been modified to detect buried telephone lines...

Mi-8 Mi-8

(1) The R-345 system also could be deployed on the ground. A similar complex was operational at the Schneekopf ELINT site > Link.
     One will remember that a Mi-10GR equipped with a "Grebeshok" system had been observed in the GDR back in 1970 > Photo.

The Mi-8  < Part 1 < Part 2 < Part 3 < Part 4 < Part 5 > Part 7

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