Mil and Kamov will merge to form the National Helicopter Center (NHC) to leverage the combined potential of the two design houses “in the development of more efficient and higher-quality rotorcraft designs,” such as the Perspective High-speed Combat Helicopter. The decision was made at the Russian Helicopters’ board of directors meeting on October 11.
Among other things, merging the two design bureaus into a single entity will enable an easier exchange of proprietary technologies, patented engineering solutions, and intellectual property rights to benefit the ambitious high-speed helicopter program.
This long-awaited move is made in the wake of the Russian defense ministry’s selection of Mil’s proposal over that of Kamov in a competition for a future rotorcraft that would cruise at some 400km/h (216 knots) and accelerate to a top speed of up to 500 km/h. According to Russian Helicopters officials, the two design bureaus evaluated 10 different concepts. The ministry made its decision early last year after a thorough evaluation of the Mi-X1 and Ka-92 proposals and results of the flight test campaign with the Mi-24PSV flying laboratory, during which the latter accelerated to 405 km/h. Under current plans, a technology demonstrator will commence flying in 2019-2020 to enable the high-speed combat helicopter project to lift off some time in 2025.
The selection of Mil over Kamov contributed to the decision to use it as the base for forming NHC. The board of directors at Russian Helicopters has approved a roadmap that calls for merging the two design houses into a single entity by the middle of the next year and completion of the process by 2022. Today, there are no plans for renaming in-service and in-development designs from Mil and Kamov. In the future, however, Russian Helicopters may adopt the “VR” designation for all new rotorcraft, following the example of the VR500 lightweight helicopter already under development.
The Kremlin began consolidating dispersed industry assets in 2007 by assembling them under the umbrella of the Russian Helicopters holding. As part of the ongoing process, in 2015 the Mil and Kamov design offices moved from the city of Moscow and Lubertsy suburb, respectively, into a new location at Panki, where the National Helicopter Center will ultimately be headquartered.
The new location has created a base for the merging of the two design bureaus, according to the holding’s press office. Even though they now occupy a site that is 40 percent smaller than before, with the floor space in the buildings 20 percent smaller, Russian Helicopters insists that the space available is more than sufficient. In media handouts, the company states that the site it currently occupies is larger than a combined one for the top five rotorcraft manufacturers in the West, namely the helicopter divisions of Bell, Airbus, Leonardo, Boeing, and Sikorsky.
“Our common goal is not to compete with one another, but with the global manufacturers,” said Mikhail Korotkevich, Russian Helicopters deputy general director responsible for science-technical policy and rotorcraft development. He acknowledged, “Some kind of competition between the two design houses—with development of broadly similar designs being carried out in parallel—was a waste of their resources.”
Merging Mil and Kamov will produce synergies that result in some 15-20 percent of their potential becoming available for subsequent use in the “creation of new technologies and prototyping.” However, whenever necessary, the Russian Helicopters leadership is going to challenge both teams with the development of competing designs and thus keep the “unique schools” of Mil and Kamov progressing further.