India Explores New Helicopter Options with Russia

 - March 2, 2015, 11:02 AM
The Indian Air Force has ordered 151 Mil Mi-17V5s from Russian Helicopters since 2008. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

At the recent Aero India show in Bangalore, Russian Helicopters held further talks with Indian officials about possible licensed production of the Mi-17 and Ka-226, following the agreement in principle by the heads of state last December. According to authoritative sources, the Russian side also offered to supply “an improved version of the Ka-31 with higher performance.” The Indian navy operates approximately a dozen of these ship-based airborne early-warning and naval surveillance rotorcraft.

"We and our Indian partners are in discussions on a follow-on contract for one more batch of the Mi-17V5,” said Alexander Mikheyev, general manager of Russian Helicopters. But, he added, “The Mil design house is working on new versions of the Mi-17 with improved hot-and-high performance, the key to further sales into India.” The company has already delivered 121 Mi-17s to India. The original agreement signed in 2008 specified 80 aircraft, but the Indians have since exercised three options, bringing to 151 the current total to be received. These helicopters are delivered in a customized Indian version, including a glass cockpit from Russian Avionics. India has more than 300 Mi-8/17s.

The Indian defense ministry was briefed on the new version of the Mi-17, designated Mi-171A2, during Aero India. The prototype has been flying since last November. Russia demonstrated the Klimov VK2500P turboshaft with Fadec and surge-protection system. The manufacturer claims the Klimov engine is asolely Russian product with no Ukrainian-made parts, and is pitching it as an alternative to the Ukrainian-made TV3-117VMAs that power the bulk of Mi-17s produced so far. Earlier versions of the VK2500 are already in use in India on some of the Mi-17s.

Although no firm agreement on licensed production was concluded, Russian arms sales agency FSVTS announced during Aero India that Russian companies are supplying equipment and tools to Chandigarh airbase, as part of an offset agreement to create an Indian base for maintenance of the Mi-17’s avionics, engines and rotor systems. The location will eventually become a full-fledged service center.