Ukrainian helicopters demonstrated the “Skytransformer” in Africa

 On March 17 Ukrainian helicopters demonstrated the capabilities of their unique Mi-8MTV-1 “Skytransformer” in Nairobi, Kenya. During the “Humanitarian Links Africa 2015" conference, more than 60 guests had the opportunity to witness the different configurations of the helicopter-transformer on the ground, as well as to observe its night operations while conducting both search and rescue operations as well as medical evacuation.

«The most exciting moment for me was the display of the technology for rescuing victims from the ground. This is the first time in my practice, when I was able to see before my very eyes the capabilities of a helicopter, and its application in places where the rest of the equipment is useless», - ”shared his impressions David Kangieze, the Head of the regional office of “DRC Horn of Africa & Yemen” in Kenya.  

The “Skytransformer” in the dim-out mode was hovering over the ‘evacuation site’ for twenty minutes and taking on board victims of varying degrees of severity. “Walking victims” were taken on board by means of a special rescue hoist, “sitting victims” – in a basket, “laying victims” – on stretchers.

«The process of searching for the victim and taking him on board requires collaboration of the entire aircrew. First, FLIR operator locates a person on the ground and transmits location data to the pilots. The helicopter hovers over the evacuation place and then it’s our turn», - explained Eugene Pryimak, ‘Ukrainian helicopters’ rescuer.

The rescuer noted that sophisticated equipment allows it to function from a height of up to 50 meters, but it is more common to operate from 30 meters where one can descend to the ground in just 8 seconds. 

 «I was impressed with what I have seen during the night flights. We were standing on the ground and wearing night-vision goggles. Right before our eyes, the rescuers were descending from the hovering over the ground helicopter to the victims and immediately picking them up and taking on board! Moreover, the whole rescue operation was done in a matter of minutes. As a health worker, I know that time is the most important criterion of saving human lives»,  – said Cathryn Archibald, the Executive assistant to Vice President of “TMH Medical Services”.

“24/7” operating mode

According to the Les Lansfordthe Head of regional office “SKA International” the capability to conduct operations 24 hours a day and 7 days a week is the main advantage of “Skytransformer”.

«I have spent seventy two months of my life in dangerous countries: fourteen as an officer of the USA Army, the rest – as a civilian. Throughout the time I had spent in Afghanistan and Somalia, I understood that when a person is injured, it doesn’t matter whether he is a soldier or a civilian, he has to be sent to a hospital, where he could receive medical care. And the sooner it is done, the higher are the chances of his survival», - assured Lunsford.

The former service man highlighted that currently UN helicopters cannot perform medical evacuation after 16:00 in Mogadishu because they do not have enough time to complete a mission and return to a base before dark.

«Victims’ rescue flights in Mogadishu shall not be conducted from 16:00 to 4:00 of the following day. I cannot give the precise numbers, but I know that people are dying because of this. If these helicopters had been equipped with a night vision system, if pilots had had night vision goggles and infrared searchlight, then the lives of many severely injured soldiers and civilians would have been saved», - stated Lunsford.

The guests were impressed with the capabilities of the medical module that can serve two severely injured patients, which is installed on board of the helicopter. 

«The most modern equipment is installed in the module, including an artificial lung ventilation device, suction pump, and defibrillator. This allows us to start treatment before we land», - said Vitaliy Vasilenko, “Ukrainian Helicopters” doctor.

In addition to that, according to Vasilenko, «SkyTrack» communication system allows medical personnel to communicate with ground-based medical expertise during the flight. In extremely complicated cases, they receive recommendations for determining patients’ treatment on board in real time+-, and that helps to save the lives of severely injured patients. 

 Protection Systems

During the static exhibition the conference visitors had an opportunity to view the FLIR system, night vision goggles and infrared searchlight, which is coupled to FLIR. According to the aircrew, these systems allow night operations and significantly enhance flight safety.

«At night in the dim-out mode, a helicopter is less visible, hence it is less vulnerable. In addition to that, the FLIR system allows us to conduct reconnaissance, to identify and in doing so to minimize possible threats», - explained Vladimir Chernyi, “Ukrainian Helicopters” aircraft captain.

RLIR has 360-dergees coverage and is capable of locating a person from a distance of 5.4 miles or a vehicle from 9.2 miles. The system is able to specifically identify a person from a distance of 1.2 miles and a vehicle – from 2.7 miles.

 «Due to 20x optical zoom and 2x digital zoom, FLIR operator can locate a threat and inform us about it. Then we connect to the ground services in order to receive further instructions. And this is done in mere seconds», - added Chernyi 

However, even in case of a ground based attack, “Skytransformer” is well protected. A Kevlar ballistic defense system protects the helicopter from small arms fire, and an airborne missile protection system operating in an automatic mode can defeat surface-to-air missile systems.

«It is very important for us that “Skytransformer” is equipped with protection systems. This is required in order to conduct operations in countries, such as Somalia and South Sudan», - highlights Francois Vermeulen, regional manager of “Air Charter Service”.

Moreover, according to Vermeulen, the additional advantage of “Skytransformer” is its multifunctionality.

«Mi-8 is a multi-purpose helicopter. We have been impressed with its operational functionality in Africa in hazardous conditions and remote areas. However, for the first time we now have the ability to transform one aircraft into four. Passenger, cargo, medical and rescue configurations all in one, this is impressive». 

During the presentation, conference visitors understood how the integrated night vision system and with just two working aircrews means the “Skytransformer” can conduct flight and rescue operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, stopping only for refueling.

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