Singapore Air Show

Korea eyes Russian copters as part of make-good deal

 - February 17, 2008, 10:53 PM

Russia and South Korea are negotiating for the South Korean navy to take some Kamov Ka-32 helicopters to settle part of a debt owed by Russia to the Asian country. The proposed deal is part of wider Korean military plans to acquire up to 30 Russian helicopters of various types through 2012. South Korea intends to form a new naval air wing operating from its Darko patrol ships, and to extend its airborne operations to include multirole and attack helicopters.

South Korea was the first export customer for Ansat light helicopters built by Kazan, but the July 2006 crash of one of the aircraft operated by the country’s forestry service cast a shadow over this sale. Earlier this month, a preliminary investigation attributed the fatal accident to “external factors” and this apparent exoneration has prompted Kazan to resume sales efforts.

However, at least until 2010, India will remain Russia’s largest customer in the Asia Pacific market for new military multi-role and transport helicopters. The government is to buy 80 of Mil’s Mi-17-1V medium-size multirole helicopters for delivery this year and next.

In fact, all of Russia’s largest helicopter manufacturers–Ulan-Ude Aircraft Plant (UUAZ), Kazan Helicopters, Kumertau-based Aircraft Production Association (KumAPP) and Rostvertol– believe they face good prospects for promoting their civilian and military helicopters to a number of Southeast Asia countries where Russian aircraft are already in service.

For instance, in 2005, Ulan-Ude supplied two Mi-171Sh helicopters to the Malaysian police and signed a contract to supply another 10 to the country’s defense ministry. In the same year, Ulan-Ude won a contract to supply three Mi-171 helicopters to Bangladesh.

In 2004, Pakistan received 12 civil versions of the Mi-171 from the Ulan-Ude plant. It has since ordered a dozen more and the first two from this batch are scheduled to be delivered next year.

Three years ago UUAZ completed the delivery of four Mi-171 helicopters to Vietnam, re-establishing its cooperation with that country after a lengthy break. Vietnam has also started buying Mi-17s from Kazan, in both civil and military configurations.
Talks are now under way with the Sri Lankan government over its need to increase its helicopter fleet. In the late 1990s, the country bought three Mi-17s.

Meanwhile, Japan has become an operator of Russian Ka-32A11VS helicopters. Supplied during 2007, those rotorcraft will be used for cargo and passenger transportation. Kamov recently agreed to sell Japan’s Morikawa Shoei Kaisha Ltd. a Ka-32 that will be operated by Agachi Helicopter Co.

Malaysia Shopping for New Helicopters

The Royal Malaysian Air Force is looking to acquire 12 medium-size transport helicopters. It has been granted funding to replace its long-serving Sikorsky S-61N Nuris and is expected to make a type selection later this year, which will allow deliveries in 2009 and 2010.

The air force is seeking a rotorcraft in the 10- to 14-ton class for missions including search-and-rescue, long-distance tactical transport, and emergency medical and logistical services. It also intends to employ its new helicopters in theater strategic operations, such as moving the country’s rapid deployment forces between its eastern and western provinces. Another mission for the new helicopters involves combat search-and-rescue to locate and save downed crews.

Requirements call for a glass cockpit, advanced navigation systems, retractable landing gear, foldable rotor blades, in-flight refueling, and an air-conditioned cockpit and cabin. The government expects offset production terms to be part of the deal.

Four bidders have responded to Malaysia’s request for proposals. The Eurocopter EC 725 Cougar, Sikorsky S-92, AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin and Mil Mi-17V5 are competing for six firm orders and six options. The air force plans to short-list two of these candidates by the middle of this year and make a final selection by year-end.