The Marine Corps wants to get acclimated to fighting peer-level adversaries with peer-level air forces, and a new request shows it’s starting with Russian-styled aircraft.
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command filed the solicitation Thursday, requesting either a Mi-24 HIND attack helicopter or Mi-17 HIP transport helicopter capable of using tracking pods compatible with the training range in Yuma, Arizona.
“The attack helicopter, due to its size, flight profile, firepower and defensive maneuvering capabilities, constitutes a unique threat creating a realistic, dissimilar and credible opposing force,” the solicitation reads.
The attack helicopters are intended to be used to interrupt Marines calling in close air support and conducting artillery and air defense missions. Additionally, the solicitation requests an aircraft capable of conducting “intelligence collection on friendly forces” and “air to ground attack of friendly forces.”
In training exercises, the helicopters will act as the aggressor force, pitted against Marine fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, as well as forward operating bases, forward refueling points and anti-aircraft artillery units.
“The scope of this effort is to provide familiarization of flight characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the foreign adversary rotary-wing and propeller driven aircraft,” according to the solicitation. “This will be accomplished by having accessibility to two foreign adversary contractor-provided aircraft that shall participate in certain exercise events as part of a realistic opposing force.”
The contractors who bid on the solicitation will need to provide no more than 40 flight hours under daylight and visual flight rule restrictions, for a maximum of five possible training exercises annually. The solicitation notes that adversary fixed-wing aircraft are also desired, but remain contract optional at this point.
Additionally, the contractor will have to provide instructional tours for personnel looking for familiarization with foreign aircraft.
Both aircraft types are designed by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and are primarily used by Russian military forces, as well as some adversarial governments like Cuba and North Korea. Many friendly governments, like Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan, also purchase the aircraft.
The introduction of air force opposition into training exercises underscores the military’s mission to focus on great power competition against peer-level threats, rather than the irregular insurgents forces they have become accustomed to over nearly two decades of fighting the Global War on Terrorism.
“The attack helicopter will act as an aggressor to interfere with the exercises forces conducting offensive, defensive and stability operations,” the solicitation reads. “This will include potential use during friendly aviation operations in order to force decision making.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.