The Russian defense ministry has decided to become the launch customer for the Mil Mi-38 medium-twin helicopter, now that a version with no foreign content has been developed. The decision was revealed at the opening of the HeliRussia 2016 expo in Moscow on May 19 by Alexander Mikheyev, general manager of Russian Helicopters. The Mi-38 has suffered protracted development, after originally being conceived in the late 1980s as a civilian helicopter seating up to 30 passengers, to replace the long-serving 24-seat Mi-8.
Mikheyev told the media that his company is working on some specific requirements for the paratrooping forces and army aviation units. “Today, the work is ongoing and shall lead us to the signing of a long-term contract,” he said. In addition to the main utility/transport version, the Russian defense ministry is said to be interested in a patrol version able to operate in extreme Arctic conditions.
Three years ago, the original Mi-38-1 version with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127H engines and western avionics was abandoned in favor of the Mi-38-2. This version features Klimov TV7-117V turboshafts and a Russian-designed IKBO-38 glass avionics suite with five LCDs. The Mi-38-2 was first shown in 2011 and won type certification in December last year. Russian Helicopters describes it as “one of most automated civil helicopters in the world. Its flight control system provides for automatic flight, landing, stabilization in the hover and all other flight regimes.”
Mikheyev said that the Mi-38-2 has been accepted by the Russian military because it does not have any imported components. “Russian Helicopters acknowledges the need of self-sufficiency…and has implemented various programs aimed at creating local substitutes.” Most of the popular rotorcraft models from Mil and Kamov come with Ukrainian-built TV3-117 engines, which now causes problems for the Russian manufacturer.
Four Mi-38-2 prototypes have been flown so far. Mikheyev noted that the type has already set a number of records for altitude and rate of climb, but acknowledged the need for further maturation. “This helicopter is still a new product…within the next 12 to 18 months we expect to complete the process of making the baseline helicopter suitable to the real buyer,” he said.