The rugged and useful Mi-8 and Mi-17 transports have been built in more numbers than any other helicopter in Russia.
Work on the Mi-8 began in 1960 with the aim of finding a successor for the piston engined 14 seat Mi-4 'Hound'. The resulting aircraft featured the Mi-4's dynamic systems coupled to a new fuselage and powered by a turboshaft engine. The first prototype Mi-8 ('Hip-A') flew during June 1961 and was powered by a single 2015kW (2700shp) Soloviev turboshaft, but when the Mi-8 was found to be underpowered two Isotov TV2 turboshafts and a five bladed main rotor were substituted instead. The Mi-8 first flew in this configuration in August 1962, and since that time more than 10,000 have been built.
Initial production Mi-8s including the MI-8T are covered by the NATO designation 'Hip-C' and include the basic military transport plus civil versions with square windows. The MI-8TB 'Hip-E' is a dedicated assault version with three (instead of two) outrigger hardpoints either side of the fuselage for rockets or 9M17 (AT-2 'Swatter') anti armour missiles, while the export Mi-STBK 'Hip-F' was armed with 9M14M (AT-3 'Sagger') missiles.
There have been numerous Mi-8 special mission variants including the MI-8PS 'Hip-D' radio relay/command post aircraft, the similar Mi-9 'Hip-G' with hockey stick antennae under the tailboom and fuselage, the MI-8SMV 'Hip-J' ECM jammer, and the MI-8PPA 'Hip-K' communications jammer with a unique antenna array either side of the fuselage (with six cross dipole antennae each).
The Mi-17 'Hip-H' introduced uprated TVS turboshafts and can be identified by its port side tail rotor. Several Mi-8s were also rebuilt to this standard under the designations MI-8MT or MI-8TV. The Mi-171 and Mi-172 have more powerful TV3s.
On 16 August 2013 the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported that one of their Mi-8's had set a world altitude record of 9,150 meters at the Kirovske military airfield on August 15.
Ukrainian Armed Forces used their Mi-8 alongside with Mi-24 in the operations against the pro-Russian insurgents in Eastern Ukraine during the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine. On 25 April 2014, a Ukrainian Mi-8 was destroyed on the ground alongside an An-2 at the airport in Kramatorsk while preparing for departure when it was hit by a grenade. The crew was able to evacuate the aircraft unharmed. On 5 May 2014, a Ukrainian Mi-8 was damaged by small arms fire while overflying a pro-Russian check point during the Siege of Sloviansk On 29 May 2014, a Ukrainian National Guard Mi-8 was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents using a MANPADS outside Slavyansk with 12 personnel, including an Army general killed and one seriously injured. On 24 June 2014, a Ukrainian National Guard Mi-8 was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents again using a MANPADS outside Slavyansk with 9 personnel killed.
Mi-17s were used during the Cambodian government's 1996 dry season offensive, five of them being converted to helicopter gunships equipped with 57mm rocket pods and providing air support for ground forces attacking the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin.
In May 1999, during Operation Safed Sagar, the Mi-17 was used in the first air phase of the Kargil War by 129HU of the Indian Air Force against Pakistani regular and Pakistan-backed militant forces. One Mi-17 was lost in combat to shoulder-fired missiles. Mi-17s were withdrawn and attacks by fixed-wing aircraft began.
The Mi-17 was used extensively by the Sri Lanka Air Force in the Sri Lankan Civil War. Seven of them were lost in combat and attacks on airports.
The Mi-17 was used by the Colombian Army in Operation Jaque.
In 2001, the Macedonian Air Force used the Mi-17 against Albanian insurgents.
The Mi-17 is also used by search and rescue teams such as the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department.
Executive Outcomes used them extensively in its operations in the Angolan Civil War.
The Mi-17 is used as a commercial passenger aircraft by Air Koryo, national airline of North Korea. Previous flights include those between Pyongyang and Kaesong and Pyongyang and Haeju.
The Mexican Navy utilizes its Mi-17s for anti-narcotic operations such as locating marijuana fields and dispatching marines to eradicate the plantations.
The Slovak Air Force and Croatian Air Force operate Mi-17s in Kosovo as part of KFOR.
Both the pro-Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi forces in the 2011 Libyan civil war have operated Mi-17s.
Mi-17s are operated by the Afghan Air Force. In July 2010 two Mi-17 were flown by a mixed crew of United States Air Force and Afghan Air Force personnel in a 13-hour mission that rescued 2,080 civilians from flood waters. This was the largest rescue by two helicopters in USAF history. USAF pilot Lt Col Gregory Roberts received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the mission