The core of the aircraft was taken from the Mil Mi-8 (NATO reporting name "Hip"), two top mounted turboshaft engines driving a mid-mounted 17.3 m five-blade main rotor and a three blade tail rotor. The engine positions give the aircraft its distinctive double air intake. The original versions have an angular greenhouse-style cockpit.
Versions D and above include a characteristic tandem cockpit with a "double bubble" canopy. Other components of the airframe came from the Mi-14 "Haze". Weapon hardpoints are provided by two short mid-mounted wings (which also provide lift), each offering three stations. The load-out mix is mission dependent; they can be tasked with close air support, anti-tank operations, or aerial combat. The body is heavily armored and the titanium rotor blades can resist impacts from .50 caliber (12.7 mm) rounds. The cockpit is overpressurized to protect the crew in NBC conditions. The craft uses a retractable tricycle undercarriage. As a combination gunship and troop transport, the Mi-24 has no direct NATO counterpart.
While some have compared the UH-1 "Huey" as NATO's direct counterpart to the Mi-24, the helicopter that created the concept of a troop carrying gunship, this is not true. While UH-1 helicopters were used in Vietnam to ferry troops, and were used as gunships, they were not able to do both at the same time. For a UH-1 to be a gunship, the entire passenger area of the helicopter would be stripped to accommodate extra fuel and ammunition, making it useless for troop carrying. The Mi-24 can do both at the same time, and this was greatly exploited by airborne units of the Soviet Army during the 1980-1989 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.