Krasnaya zvezda often profiles parts of the Russian military, and on 30 July, it interviewed the Chief of the Syzran Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots (SVVAUL or СВВАУЛ), Colonel Nikolay Yartsev. Yartsev is a 1984 graduate of the school, a Hero of the Russian Federation, an Honored Military Pilot of the RF, and Pilot-Sniper.
SVVAUL is Russia’s sole higher military educational institution for helicopter pilot training. In its various incarnations, it’s existed for 70 years. It trains helicopter pilots for the Air Forces, Navy, and other ‘power’ ministries and departments. It’s a 5-year commissioning school, so some of the initial two years isn’t particularly specific to helicopter training.
Asked if the current level of cadet training in the school meets the demands of the time, Yartsev points out that SVVAUL is accredited through 2012 and fulfills the ‘state order’ for military specialists in helicopter aviation. It is fully staffed with professors and instructors; more than half have scholarly credentials. All have great teaching experience, and many have not only years of service in operational forces, but also long combat experience.
Yartsev goes on to say SVVAUL can train 1,500 cadets simultaneously. Its faculties have displays, mock-ups, and examples of weapons and equipment that support the practical direction of student training.
Yartsev says, thanks to the Air Forces, two years ago the school got a modern Mi-24 simulator, and this year an even more modern one. It’s supposed to get two more simulators, a KT-24P and Mi-8.
The school has an 8-hectare field training base including 3 airfields for its 3 training-helicopter regiments. In their third year, cadets learn to fly the Mi-2U, and SVVAUL is preparing to switch to the Ansat-U for primary training.
In their fourth and fifth years, students fly Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters. They get 35 hours as pilot and 10 as pilot-navigator (operator) in this phase of training. Yartsev says in 2009 the average cadet graduated with 135 flight hours, but a few got about 250 hours along with their third class pilot’s qualification.
Yartsev describes the Russian helicopter pilots’ experience in the Afghan war. He says the USSR lost 333 helicopters and hundreds of pilots and crew members. Twelve SVVAUL graduates became Heroes of the Soviet Union. Thirty became Heroes of the Russian Federation while in combat in the North Caucasus.
Information available about Fort Rucker, home of the U.S. Army’s helicopter school, provides an interesting contrast. Fort Rucker trains current officers and warrants to become rotary-wing pilots in as little as 9 months. The program may train as many as 4,000 student pilots every year. It looks like each student gets over 200 hours flying a TH-67 trainer and 70 hours in simulators, before even beginning many hours of advanced flight training in whichever specific combat helicopter they’ll eventually fly. U.S. Army aviation has over 100 simulators in use and dozens in procurement.