Marines train with Russian aircraft

(MILITARY TIMES)   Marines in Arizona will soon duke it out with a crop duster and a Russian helo in a new effort to understand enemy tactics and weaponry.

The Antonov An-2, built after World War II, and the Russian Mi-24 Hind, a 1980s-era helo, will be flown at the biannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor course aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

The An-2 is a bit of an oddity. Designed as a crop duster, it became widely used by the Russian military as a workhorse for everything from carrying cargo, to troop insertion, to reconnaissance. The Chinese began producing their own copy of the aircraft in the 1970s. North Korea uses it today.

While the An-2 might look like a joke as it putters across the battlefield with a single prop engine, it can be a deadly tool. In 1991, the Croatian air force used them to drop makeshift bombs during that country’s civil war.

The Mi-24, on the other hand, looks just as tough as it is. Designed by the Soviets for use in Afghanistan in the 1980s, it is the Russian counterpart to the U.S. AH-64 Apache. It laid waste to many Afghan villages and was feared by the Mujahedeen. Armed to the teeth with rockets and machine guns, it can also carry eight shock troops in full battle rattle. The Mi-24 was sold widely to Pakistan, Algeria, Brazil, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Peru, just to name a few. Today the Mi-24 and the similar-but-updated Mi-35 are being flown by the Afghan air force, which is trained by U.S. and NATO pilots.

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