The State Emergency Service, which until December 2012 was known as the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine,
takes care of the civil defense, rescue, and the protection of the population and territory during any
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine has its own aviation unit, called the Special Aviation Unit and
Operational Rescue Service of the State Emergency Service. It is based in Nizhyn to perform the rescue
and the emergency situations functions. This Special Aviation Unit can work independently or in
cooperation with other units of the State Emergency Service to fulfil its tasks.
The Ukrainian Emergency Service, which reports to the Ministry of the Interior, is considered to
be a "special military corps" under the Civil Defense Forces Law. The personnel are either volunteers
or others serving the national defense requirement (conscription). Both types of personnel are subject
to military discipline, wear military-style uniforms and have military grades, the highest at individual
unit level being Colonel.
Aircraft in the Fleet
The aviation unit has several aircraft types in its inventory, which includes the ubiquitous Mil Mi-8,
the An 26, An 30 and An 32. A few years ago, the unit also received western aircraft in the form of EC145.
The service also operates a little-know version of the Mil Mi-8 – the Mil Mi-9, (Hip-G, also designated as
Mil Mi-8IV). Initially, these helicopters were meant to be used in the airborne command post version, however
many of them have been converted to carry out the SAR role. In the past, the Mil Mi-8s were used for fighting
forest fires as this helicopter can use a 5-ton tank. Regrettably, engine performance effectively limited the
payload to around three tons of water. The limited fire-fighting performance led to the adoption of a dedicated
fire-fighting aircraft, namely the An 32P "Firekiller".
The "Firekiller" is a special variant of the An 32 Cline transport aircraft capable of carrying effectively
around eight tons of water. Additionally, its cockpit is equipped with optical sights that allow the second
pilot to maintain visual contact with the fire during the whole approach to the water release point. Another
advantage of the An 32P is that the aircraft is easily converted into a normal transport aircraft by removing
the water tanks. In the transport role, the An 32P can carry eight tons cargo or up to 50 passengers.
Furthermore, goods can also be parachuted via the freight ramp as in the case of the An 26.
The An 26 was initially used to transport personnel and medics directly to the disaster areas. In April 2016,
the State Emergency Service received the first An 26 fitted out as an airborne hospital. The aircraft, having
a range of around 2000km, is fitted with two high-quality intensive MEDEVAC modules for seriously injured
persons and six more beds for patients who do not require intensive care. It is also equipped with 14 seats
for mildly injured persons and has another six seats for medical personnel. Not all the An 26s have been
modified to the specialized MEDEVAC role. Its slightly larger counterpart, the An 30 Clank, assists the
‘Cub’ in the transport role. It is understood, though, that the An 30s used by the Rescue Service retain
their aerial cartography functionality.
The Rescue Service acquired the first two EC145 helicopters in 2009 and these came equipped with a complete
intensive care package for two patients. This is a "quick-change" package, which means that the equipment
can be removed in about 20 minutes, thereby allowing the helicopter to be converted in a very short time
for other missions such as firefighting or transport flights. Originally, it was intended that the helicopter
would completely supplant the Mil Mi-8 because one flight hour of the Hip is more expensive than one EC 145
flight hour. On the other hand, the Mil Mi-8 can carry a bigger payload and has more internal space while
its maintenance is much easier. These advantages of the Mil Mi-8 over the EC145 led to some of the ‘Hips’
In March 2018, Ukraine entered in a deal with Airbus Helicopters for the procurement of a number (around 50)
of H145, H125 and H225 helicopters for the government. It is understood that seven H225s will be assigned
to the State Emergency Service and a third squadron operating the new Super Pumas will be formed at Nizhyn.
Training has already started and the first helicopters are expected to be handed to the Rescue Service in
State Emergency Service aircraft and helicopters nowadays have distinctive red and white stripes along
the fuselage with the service insignia, an orange cross on a white background on a red disc, on the
forward or center fuselage. Helicopters also carry the national blue/yellow roundel on the fuselage
sides or on the fin. Fixed wing aircraft do not carry roundels but instead have the national trident
insignia as a fin flash. Service titles are usually in Ukrainian (Cyrillic alphabet) on the port
fuselage and in English (Roman alphabet) on the starboard fuselage of fixed wing aircraft, but not
helicopters, which have titles in Ukrainian on both sides. Some aircraft are still in the old blue
and yellow color scheme.
Nizhyn Air Base
Nizhyn is an air base in Chernihiv Oblast, equipped with a 3000m long concrete runway, originally
conceived as a medium-sized bomber base for the Soviet Aviatsiya dal'nego deystviya (Long-Range Aviation).
By 1967, there were around 24 Tu-22s (Blinders) based there. In February 1999, the base was transferred
to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and renamed 300 Special Aviation Squadron.
The author wishes to acknowledge the support and assistance of the Ukrainian authorities and Emergency
Services personnel who made the visit to Nizhyn and this report possible.