The Russian defense ministry is to resume procurement of Kazan/Russian Helicopters Ansat helicopters following the recently announced plan to completely “indigenize” the baseline model that first flew in 1997. It centers on the replacement of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207K 630-hp turboshafts by either the Klimov VK-800V that is already available, or the VK-650V now in development. The current daylight-only avionics are to be replaced by a glass cockpit and a set of mission equipment from Ramenskoye PKB that will permit night operations.
Russia’s ministry of defense initially placed two orders each of 30 units to have all been delivered by 2019, but stopped taking deliveries prematurely due to issues with western components. Today, the Russian Air and Space Force (VKS) operates 45 Ansat-U rotorcraft, mostly in the flying school at Syzran, the largest institution in the country for the preparation of crews for army aviation.
The service made its commitment to the Ansat-U in 2012, following the completion of state acceptance on the customized training version that features wheeled undercarriage and KSU-A fly-by-wire flight controls. The latter enables the artificial emulation of the handling qualities of heavier rotorcraft to reduce syllabus costs. According to the instructors at Syzran, teething problems with the Ansat-U have largely been fixed by now.
Thanks to the KSU-A, the type has won a reputation to be “very forgiving” for novice pilots and is considered as “easier to master” when compared with other helicopters in Russian service, since all of them employ mechanical linkages with hydraulic boost. Even though the KSU-A has not delivered on all its early promises concerning the accurate emulation of all in-service rotorcraft types, the military intends to keep it on Ansats and develop the FBW technology further.
While Canadian engines remain available for freshly assembled Ansats for commercial operators, the Kremlin demanded that the United Engine Corporation (ODK) develop a complete line of turboshaft engines to exclude foreign suppliers from the Russian Helicopters supply chain. ODK general designer Yuri Shmotin has recently announced development of the Klimov VK-1600V for application to the Kamov Ka-62, and VK-650V for the Ka-226 and Ansat. Their certification is planned for 2023. In his words, the draft design of the VK-650—which develops between 500 and 700 hp—will be completed later this year to enable the building of prototypes for testing. “The work is ongoing, funding is provided”, Shmotin said.
Apart from purchasing more Ansat-Us, the Russian military may also reconsider the Ansat-2RTs, a two-seat armed derivative for reconnaissance, target-illumination and strike missions. Unveiled at MAKS 2005, this version has 90 percent parts commonality with the baseline model. In addition to a pair of 12.7-mm Kord internal machine guns and UV-26 chaff/flare dispensers, the Ansat-2RTs can carry up to 1,300kg (2,866lb) of air-launched munitions on four pylons under stub wings, including S-8 80-mm rockets and Igla self-homing air-to-air missiles.
Through the introduction of more versions and derivatives, Russian Helicopters aims at expanding Ansat’s customer base. The company’s CEO, Andrei Boginsky, hopes that this would increase the backlog and enable the final assembly line at the Kazan Helicopters plant to reach full capacity, at some 60 units per year.