HeliRussia Show Marks Decline in Military Sales Abroad

 - May 30, 2018, 8:28 AM
A Mil Mi-8AMTSh for the Russian armed forces on display outside the HeliRussia show. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Although the Russian government has set a target of increasing the share of Russian Helicopters in the global rotorcraft market from 13 percent today to 20 percent in 2025, exports of new Mil and Kamov machines continued to decline last year, according to official statistics released during the May 24 to 26 HeliRussia 2018 show in Moscow. 

Russian Helicopters completed 214 rotorcraft in 2017 compared with 189 for the previous year. Of that total, 72 went to Russian military forces; about 70 were for civilian operators inside and outside the country; and the remainder were for foreign military customers. Russian Helicopter’s CEO Andrei Boginsky said the company plans to ship 220 rotorcraft this year. But he sounded rather pessimistic about prospects for military exports in the coming years, predicting their share to drop below 40 percent of the company’s output. At the same time, he expressed hope that foreign commercial sales will account for half of future production.

The company plans a demonstration tour of the Mi-171A2 and the improved Ansat light twin around Southeast Asia, starting at Airshow China in Zhuhai and proceeding to Indonesia, Malaysia, and other countries. Both models come in civilian and military versions, Boginsky stressed.

At HeliRussia 2018 the manufacturer exhibited a production Ansat with a number of improvements including revised cockpit transparencies as well as composite panels replacing metallic ones for weight saving. Further changes are being implemented to boost the type’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. The Russian defense ministry’s pilot training school in Syzran accepted 10 more Ansats last year, adding to 40 received between 2009 and 2015.

Boginsky is especially hopeful about the Chinese market, estimating demand there at 70 helicopters. Last month, a large Chinese delegation inspected the Kazan Helicopter Plant, where the production of the Mi-38, Mi-172, and Ansat takes place. Chinese test pilots flew the Ansat and made positive comments, Boginsky said. Russian Helicopters has already sold several Ansat and Mi-171 examples to commercial operators in China and validated their type certificates with the local aviation authorities.

While China looks promising for the Ansat and Mi-171, Russian Helicopters admits difficulty in making sales headway in Iran. Although the demand for modern rotorcraft in that country is measured in hundreds, international sanctions and internal bureaucracy make it difficult for Moscow to arrange high-tech export deals with Tehran. Moreover, the incumbent government of President Rouhani favors funding local defense manufacturers over import. Yet Moscow hopes for sales of Ka-226T into Iran, following a successful tour of such helicopters to the country last year, including hot-and-high trials.  

Tehran has resumed talks with Moscow on establishing a production line in Iran for the Ka-226T. The new line would involve a purely civilian effort, so that Russian Helicopters does not experience difficulty importing the helicopter’s Turbomeca Arrius 2G1 engines. Alternatively, Boginsky said that Russian engines could be substituted, allowing Ka-226 and Ansat sales to the Iranian armed forces.