Russian Helicopters took advantage of the Army 2018 exposition held between August 21 and 26 in Kubinka, west of Moscow, to unveil new versions of its well-known Mi-28 (NATO: “Havoc”) and Mi-26 (“Halo”) helicopters, and Mi-28NM and Mi-26T2V.
Also referred to as the Mi-28NE (mod.), the Mi-28NM was exhibited statically at Kubinka’s Patriot Park. A flying prototype, side number 1707, differs outwardly from earlier versions by having a “multi-cyclone” dust protection air inlet system, a longer nose, and enlarged horizontal tail surfaces. The Ukrainian-built TV3-117VMA turboshafts have been replaced by the Russian-made VK2500-01, which is essentially the same design but with higher power and a few other improvements. Aircraft 1707 also comes with an explosion-protected fuel system and reshaped “286-2910-00” main rotor blades. The latter were introduced to boost flight performance in hot-and-high conditions, to increase top speed, and provide more thrust-to-weight ratio to enhance the helicopter’s maneuverability.
The primary weapons system is now the Khrisantema (Chrysanthemum) reconnaissance and strike complex employing 9M123M Strelets-VM twin-channel guided missiles. Speaking to local media, the head of Russian Helicopters, Andrei Boginsky, said that side number 1707 represents “a new shape of the exportable Night Hunter” (as the Mi-28N is dubbed). He stressed that adding the Khrisantema-V missile system to the Mi-28 arsenal extends the helicopter’s maximum firing range to 10 kilometers. To find, recognize, and illuminate suitable targets at that distance, the Mi-28NM is fitted with an OPS-28M optical surveillance and aiming system with improved characteristics. It also has a search and engagement radar in a pod that can be attached to the stub wings, in addition to a mast-mounted 360-degree surveillance radar.
The Mi-28NM retains the ability to fire older 9M-120-1 Ataka-VM anti-tank missiles with radio-command guidance. Boginsky said that work is ongoing to develop an improved version of this ATGM. It is believed that the Mi-28NM will be able to employ a laser-guided version of the Ataka developed earlier for the Kamov Ka-52. Provision is made for the Mi-28MN to carry free-fall bombs up to 500 kilograms. The S-8 series 80-mm unguided rockets can be carried in standard 20-tube B-8V20-A pods or the newly developed, modular-design Zaslon 9A5013 pods. The latter provides for blocks of five tubes to be mounted in layers one below the other, to produce combinations with 10 to 25 launching tubes.
Another feature of the Mi-28NM is the ability to interact with unmanned aerial vehicles, which, according to Boginsky, is “the most interesting innovation.” He added that the design alterations and improvements reflect combat experience from Syria. This is also the case for an improved Mi-35M helicopter with VK2500-1 engines that was also demonstrated for the first time at Army 2018.
Meanwhile, work on the Mi-26T2V heavy-lifter commenced two years ago as a new standard version for the Russian Air and Space Force (VKS) of the Mi-26, which has been in production since 1980 with more than 340 built. A prototype of the Mi-26T2V with side number 3112 flew for the first time on August 19. It was ferried from the Rostvertol factory in Rostov-on-Don to the Kubinka air force base on the eve of Army 2018. The manufacturer hopes to complete factory trials by the end of the year, and commence state acceptation trials shortly afterward, leading to an anticipated order for an initial batch next year.
According to Russian Helicopters, the Mi-26T2V is not a domestic version derived from the exportable Mi-26T2 that is already in service with Algerian and Jordanian armed forces. Instead of reducing the crew numbers from five to two/three, the Russian defense ministry opted to reduce their workload. The T2V differs from the standard Mi-26 by having a glass cockpit and NPK-90-2V avionics suite from the Ramenskoye design house, which differs from that in the Mi-26T2. It enables the helicopter to fly safely in hilly terrain and bad weather. Navigation and radio-communications systems are satellite-aided.
Aircraft 3112 is fitted with the Vitebsk self-defense system, a non-exportable version of the President-S, shipments of which commenced to Middle East customers more than a year ago. It comprises two laser-suppression emitters and a pair of 50-mm flare dispensers (one on each side of the lower fuselage), plus four optical sensors.
From around 2023 it is planned to replace the Ukrainian D-136 turboshaft engines with an indigenous motor using a core from the PD-14 turbofans developed for the Irkut MC-21 jetliner. This would reduce fuel burn and increase the Mi-26’s payload capability, which currently stands at 20 tonnes.