Paris Air Show

Russia Has Sights Set On Global Helicopter Scene

 - June 14, 2013, 11:50 AM
The Mi-28N is primarily intended for fire support of the troops, going into the heat of the battle if required.

More than 8,000 Russian rotorcraft are in operation in more than hundred countries around the world–twenty types and around forty variants with major upgrades. Their manufacturer, Russian Helicopters (Hall 2a, Stand C198), which claims it has 14 percent of the world’s fleet, reported a profit of Roubles 9.4 billion ($300 million) in 2012–and a hefty 21 percent rise in revenues, to RUB125.7 billion. Some RUB99 billion of this was generated from helicopter shipments and RUB19 billion from services.

Shipments in 2012 grew by 10.7 percent, with 290 rotorcraft of nine types going to 19 countries. The backlog is 817 helicopters worth RUB369 billion at catalogue prices.

The Russian MoD remains the largest customer, with over 1,500 indigenous choppers in service with Army Aviation and with funds allocated for the procurement of 1,100 new rotorcraft in the 2010-2020 time frame. This customer received 37 in 2010, 82 in 2011 and about 120 in 2012.

Military exports have also been on rise. According to the Rosoboronexport arms export agency, rotorcraft deliveries in 2012 amounted to U.S.$1.5 billion, 40 percent more than the previous year, and a further 30-percent rise is expected in 2013. Rosoboronexport holds orders for Russian-made rotorcraft exceeding U.S.$5 billion–according to official data Russia submitted to the UN weapons register, there were 66 deliveries of Russian military helicopters in 2011.

Many Rosoboronexport customers prefer buying what the Russian MoD is taking. The time-proven Mi-8/17 series remains the best seller, and the Russian state entities will continue to take some 50 such aircraft a year over the next few years. New models of attack helicopters are also becoming increasingly popular; shipments of the Mi-28N to the Russian armed forces in 2009-2012 proceeded at a flat annual rate of 12 annually, and a total of 200 are expected to be taken eventually. Output of the Ka-52 has been rising, with some 20 shipments in total by 2012, out of 140 on order.

It is interesting to note that, after many years of selection between the Mi-28 and Ka-50/52, the MoD finally took both. The Mi-28N is primarily intended for fire support of the troops, going into the heat of the battle if required, with pilots putting their hopes into heavy armor protection and a small cross-section. The Ka-52 has a large radar in the nose and many expensive sensors. Others are for reconnaissance and striking targets at distances where most targets could not successfully return fire. Alongside this pair of modern rotorcraft, the MoD continues buying Mi-35Ms, the recent evolution of the long-serving Mi-24. Six were accepted in 2011 and 10 in 2012, out of an order of 60.

Shipments of the world’s largest rotorcraft, the Mi-26T, resumed in 2011, with the Russian MoD taking 11 examples as part of a framework contract for 18.

The navy’s most important procurement is a pair of Kamov Ka-252RLs, a customized derivative of the Ka-31 radar picket helicopter already operational in India and China.

Shipments of the Ansat-U for the flight schools continue under a framework agreement for 30 machines. This is the first type in Russian military service to have foreign engines in the form of the Pratt & Whitney PW207K. Also for training purposes, the MoD has ordered 30 Ka-226s with 10 shipments in 2012. This makes a second case for foreign powerplants, in this case the Rolls-Royce Allison 250; future prospects for both Ansat and Ka-226 depend on the indigenous industry’s ability to come up with competitive power plants in the 400- to 800-hp class.

To stimulate local manufacturers, the Russian MoD is openly considering buying rotorcraft in Europe. The service has already received two AS355NPs and three AS350Bs for operational trials.

If these five Eurocopters prove their worth, the service may order 47 machines eventually, for training duties and VIP transportation. The MoD is also studying the Mi-38 and Ka-60, but whether their militarized versions could meet requirements for future multirole rotorcraft is uncertain. Dmitry Petrov, general director at the Russian Helicopters, said that the Mi-38 series production would commence in 2015.

The third experimental example has been assembled and will soon start flying. This example is powered by Russian-made Klimov TV7-117V turboshafts instead of PW127T/S on the earlier prototypes. Delays with completion of a completely indigenous version of this promising helicopter have been caused by protracted bench testing on the Klimov motors, said Petrov. A dozen Klimov engines are employed in various tests. A pair of flight-fit TV7-117Vs is set for delivery to the Kazan helicopter plant in May for installation on the third Mi-38 to be built, which is to have its maiden flight in June or July.

As of the end of May, there was no clear decision from the manufacturers as to whether the Mi-38 would have indigenous or foreign engines. Russian Helicopters and Pratt & Whitney signed a framework agreement for up to 500 PW127s worth $600 million back in 2008, but this deal is still waiting for approval from the U.S. Department of State. Meanwhile, Kazan started assembly of the fourth Mi-38, the final experimental example, with which the Mil Design House intends to complete certification trials. This example will have larger windows and a crash-resistant fuel system from Aerazur. In addition, an airframe for bench testing is to be completed this year.

The Mi-38 had its first flight in December 2003, almost 10 years ago.