The Hind Helicopter
The Soviets brought what they called the “Crocodile” to Afghanistan to fight the pesky Mujahideen. The Russians had observed the use of helicopter-borne troops in Vietnam. The US Army used the Huey as a transport, and a stripped-down “slick” version as a fighting escort. The Hind was supposed to be both an attack and transport helicopter. There is room for eight soldiers in the cargo bay, complete with gun ports in the side of the hull. In practice the cargo bay was typically used to carry a mechanic and repair supplies instead of soldiers so that the vehicle could rebase itself in remote places.
The Hind is notoriously ugly and menacing. Over 55 feet long, very narrow, and almost 20 feet high it is about as big as a Huey. The wings provide some lift and are used to mount rocket pods and anti-tank missiles. The breast-like objects above the cockpit are intake filters, necessary in dusty Afghanistan. The tube sticking out of the side up near the engine is an exhaust pipe, a tasty bull’s eye for heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles. Eventually these were covered up. The Hind was fast and powerful in its day, but not terribly maneuverable. The rotors were so long that they sometimes hit the tail pylon, destroying the vehicle. Later versions shortened the rotors a little.
Mujahideen hated and feared what they called “Shaitan-Arba” or Satan’s Chariot. The Hind was heavily armored, had titanium reinforced rotors, and was difficult to shoot down with small-caliber weapons. Mujahideen traveled very light, on foot or by donkey and horse, so they lacked weapons that could damage the Hind. The Hind operated during the day, encouraging the Mujahideen to move and fight at night. Unlike jets, which fly over for a second, drop their bombs and leave, the Hind could hover over Mujahideen, carefully dropping bombs and gunning them down. In an apathetic and unmotivated Red Army, it was the Spetnaz commandos and the Crocodile pilots who swaggered and fought with aggression and high moral.
To change these conditions the United States gave Mujahideen the Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. Three hundred and thirty-three Hinds were lost. Many still lie broken and rusting, dotting the countryside alongside tanks and trucks. Once a powerful symbol of the brute force the Soviets brought to Afghanistan, they now remind Afghans that high-tech armies can be vulnerable.