MAKS 2011: Upgraded Mi-26 Shown As Russia Contemplates Successor with China

 - September 2, 2011, 9:25 AM
The upgraded Mi-26T2 was displayed at the recent Moscow Air Show (Photo: Vladimir Karnazov)

The Mil Mi-26T2 upgrade made its debut at the Moscow Air Show (MAKS 2011), demonstrating its higher power-weight ratio and better handing characteristics in the flight display.

This version of the heavy-lift helicopter is competing against the Boeing Chinook for an order from India, which already operates four Mi-26s. Meanwhile, a source at Russian Helicopters told AIN that China has agreed to the joint development of a next generation heavy-lift helicopter.

The baseline Mi-26 first flew in 1977 and is still the world’s largest helicopter in service with 20-ton payload capability. About 100 are flying worldwide.

The Mi-26T2 is intended for both military and civilian customers and uses “some flight control algorithms already proven on the Mi-28N,” says Aleksei Samusenko, general designer at Mil. The model passed preliminary manufacturer’s trials this year, and certification trials will start soon. Most of the funding is being provided by Rostvertol, a Mi-26 manufacturer that fell under control of the Russian Helicopters in late 2010, through purchase of a major stake.

The Mi-26T2 is powered by two Ivchenko-Progress D-136-2 turboshaft engines with Fadec, each developing 12,500 shp at emergency power mode and delivering and extra 250 shp at takeoff mode. The big helicopter features the BREO-26 digital avionics suite from the Ramenskoye PKB. It has a glass cockpit on five LCD displays, a digital autopilot and a Glonass-aided navigation system enabling IFR operations.

The upgraded model requires two flight crewmembers, down from five, but an operator is needed when cargo is carried on sling. A Transas TSL-1600 searchlight working in either standard or infrared mode allows better observation of cargo being carried on the sling, and use of night-vision goggles.

The Russian Helicopters source told AIN that the company had been seeking foreign partners to share the substantial costs of developing a new heavy-lift helicopter. “The Europeans have been developing technologies for a super-heavy helicopter of their own. Consultations with them brought little. We were luckier in our talks with the Chinese,” he revealed.

After the successful participation of Russian Mi-26s in rescue operations in China’s western provinces following the 2008 earthquake, China purchased four Mi-26s. It subsequently “filed application for joint development of a next-generation heavy helicopter on mutually acceptable terms," the source explained. "We came with a reciprocating offer, and it was accepted. The Chinese government provides necessary funding. There is a hope that after a series of false starts, the next-generation super-heavy helicopter project is now on a firm footing,” he added.

India is also evaluating the Mi-28NE and Boeing АН-64 Apache, both of which were short-listed in a competition for 22 attack helicopters. At MAKS 2011 the Mi-28NE exportable version was on static display for the first time. It is derived from the Russian air force Mi-28N version, which went into production in 2006.