24.12.2013 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Russian Helicopters
The Russian Moment
05.03.2013 / Vertical
by Elan Head
In years past, Heli-Expo attendees might have associated this claim with any of the manufacturers that have traditionally dominated the show Bell, Sikorsky, Eurocopter or even Robinson. In years past, however, the world of Heli-Expo attendees was a much narrower place.
At Heli-Expo 2013, manufacturers, operators and service providers have finally started to appreciate the importance (and commercial potential) of regions outside of North America and Western Europe: regions including South America, Asia and the Middle East. And as the Western helicopter industry has started to venture outside its traditional borders, its coming to appreciate the products that were there all along including the ubiquitous Mil Mi-8/17 series manufactured by what is now Russian Helicopters. In Las Vegas, the company is telling Heli-Expo attendees: If you dont know whats behind our success, now is the time to find out.
Russian Helicopters has a sizable presence at Heli-Expo 2013, bolstered by VIH Aviation Groups display of one of its Kamov Ka-32A11BC helicopters. The company is also showing off the medium multi-role Ka-62, the Mi-171A1 and the new, upgraded Mi-171A2 the latest version in the best-selling Mi-8/17 series.
As a leading global designer and manufacturer of helicopters, Russian Helicopters takes every opportunity to showcase its latest models and innovations, catch up with what our peers are doing, and build and strengthen relationships with customers in key markets, a Russian Helicopters spokesman told Vertical prior to the show.
Russian Helicopters is a subsidiary of UIC Oboronprom, which is itself part of Russian Technologies State Corporation. Established in 2007, it consolidates two longstanding helicopter design bureaus Mil and Kamov as well as five helicopter production facilities and various other business interests.
And the company is coming off a strong 2012. In June of last year, it announced a 42.3 percent increase in revenues, a 12.9 percent increase in profit, and an increase in its firm backlog of helicopter orders to 921. Although by press time the company had not yet disclosed its full-year earnings, the spokesman reported, For now we can say that we are very happy with the results of the year, and go into 2013 in excellent shape.
Much of Russian Helicopters business comes fr om those markets that Western companies are only starting to take an interest in. Said the companys spokesman, We continue to see the greatest potential both this year and in the longer term in developing economies such as China, India, countries in Latin America and Africa, as well as Southeast Asia. We have for many years enjoyed good relationships with both China and India, and continue to see strong demand for both civilian and military helicopters in both countries.
In South America, notably Brazil and Argentina, Russian Helicopters is seeing particularly strong demand in the offshore oil-and-gas sector, where it believes its Kamov Ka-62 will prove to be a winner. Indeed, in December 2012, the company announced that it had signed its first export contract for the Ka-62 with Brazils Atlas Taxi Aereo, which already operates Mi-171A1s for oil-and-gas work. Russian Helicopters, which plans to start testing the Ka-62 this year, is aiming for certification of the aircraft for international use by 2015, and intends to deliver seven Ka-62s to Atlas Taxi Aereo between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.
Russian Helicopters also plans to build on its success in Africa, the companys spokesman said. At the end of last year we signed a partnership agreement to create a service hub in South Africa we are rolling out a global network of such hubs as a core part of our strategy to offer lifetime support for Russian-built helicopters around the world. Doing this is a great value-add for customers who want more than just a sales pitch, and means that we can offer a complete service from customizing the helicopters themselves to full training for our partners and customers to comprehensive after-sales service.
Will Russian Helicopters success outside Western markets translate to success within them? The company isnt ruling it out. Clearly there are higher barriers to entry in more mature markets, wh ere other manufacturers are already well established, the spokesman said. But still we can see that the situation is changing for example, the political obstacles of previous years are less of an issue for Russian Helicopters today. The most striking example of how things are different is that today a Russian manufacturer can supply equipment to the U.S. military.
But the company isnt simply looking to challenge Western manufacturers: its also looking to engage them in partnerships. Said the spokesman, Possibly the highest-profile example of this is our joint venture [JV] with AgustaWestland, with which we are very happy. The first helicopter produced by the facility at Tomilino passed its first test flights at the end of last year, and we expect to be able to report more successes in the near future. For both sides the JV has been beneficial as we have been able to learn from each others experience and draw on our combined technical resources and knowledge. The company has also established service joint ventures in China, Dubai and South Africa, and is now working with components manufacturers to produce parts for specialized tasks such as firefighting.
As the global helicopter industry moves toward greater integration, its members may find they have more in common than they thought. Said Russian Helicopters spokesman, In general our customers in more developed markets appreciate the same things as those in developing countries: the excellent design and build quality of our helicopters and their ease of use, the extensiveness and adaptability of our range of models, and of course the exceptional value for money that Russian Helicopters products can offer. At Heli-Expo 2013, the company hopes to make the worlds most popular helicopter and the rest of the Russian Helicopters product line more popular still.
The Ka-52 Alligator: “It flies beautifully and looks menacing”
01.07.2013 / Aviation Explorer
by Roman Gusarov
Alexander Cherednichenko and Mikhail Pavlenko
Interview with the Ka-52 helicopter crew at the Paris Air Show 2013: Alexander Cherednichenko, test pilot from Kamov Design Bureau, and Mikhail Pavlenko, holder of the state award Honored Test Pilot of Russia.
- In the course of your career you have flown many different Russian-produced helicopters, including the Ka-50 and Mi-28N(E). What can you tell us about the Ka-52?
Cherednichenko: The Ka-52 is a unique helicopter that continues the Kamov dynasty and is the successor to the Ka-50 Black Shark. This helicopter is a more advanced version of the Ka-50, developed using the latest hardware, and with new engines and new capabilities. It has kept the best features of the Ka-50 and gained some new ones.
- All Russian attack helicopters before the Ka-52 had a tandem-seat cockpit. You piloted the Ka-50 single-handedó. Now you sit side-by-side with the co-pilot. Which do you prefer?
Cherednichenko: It is easier to work together. Now we have an additional pair of eyes and hands – the co-pilot can provide help and advice. There is a term “attention allocation”. It means that one pilot is responsible for piloting the helicopter, while the other is responsible for target acquisition and recognition and deployment of weapons. We can “switch places” at any time in terms of allocation of duties, since all the systems are duplicated. Teamwork between pilots in the Ka-52 is much better than with tandem seating. A simple example from my experience: a pilot’s headset connector comes off in the forward-facing crew cockpit and contact between pilots is lost. You do not know whether he cut off communications intentionally or if something happened to him. You can’t see him so you have to use some tricks to draw his attention. And here we are sitting side by side and can see each other, so we can monitor the each other’s condition and ask for help, and we don’t even have to use intercommunication equipment. We can use signs, gestures or point at something by changing the direction of our gaze.
- Tell us some more about the combat capabilities of the Ka-52.
Cherednichenko: It has state-of-the-art combat capabilities that meet international standards for the global helicopter industry. It is as good as the best foreign machines in terms of target acquisition in low light and low visibility, and at flying using night-vision systems and deploying high-precision weapons. The Ka-52 is an attack and reconnaissance helicopter; in other words, besides its attack capabilities, it is fitted with equipment for detecting a target and transmitting targeting data to other helicopters and jets, which can successfully hit the target.
- What is the most unique feature of the Ka-52?
Cherednichenko: The coaxial rotors provide outstanding performance. But the most unique feature is the ejection system, which has never been used on any other aircraft. This system will drag the pilot out of almost any situation – whether the helicopter is on fire or shot down or even if it disintegrates in mid-air. The pilot does not have to think about opening the escape hatch without his parachute getting caught on something. One move and he is in the air. The system has a wide range of use: a pilot can eject in almost every position, even when almost on the ground.
Pavlenko: With a maximum take-off weight of 10,800 kg, the Ka-52 can carry 2,500 kg of payload. In fact payload accounts for a quarter of its weight. One more important feature is the reliable 30mm cannon similar to the ones installed on infantry combat vehicles. We have 460 projectiles for this cannon. There is no other vehicle in this class with such an arsenal. The cannon is very efficient in close combat. And not only accuracy but also the quantity of ammo may play a crucial role.
- We saw your flights here at Le Bourget. The helicopter is very manoeuvrable, with a high power-to-weight ratio. Is it easy to pilot this vehicle as compared to Mi-28N(E)?
Cherednichenko: The Mi-28N(E) is an interesting vehicle with efficient controls. However the special aspects of a single-rotor helicopter require a bit more coordination when working with the controls. On the other hand the movement of controls in Kamov helicopters is direct, similar to a jet, and so you may use only one controller at a time to adjust the flight vector. It is easy to pilot this vehicle. Pilots who have never piloted Kamov helicopters before like it very much. They feel comfortable right from the start and understand that the vehicle responds adequately to their commands.
Pavlenko: From an outsider’s point of view all helicopters fly the same way. However, coaxial rotors give 10-15% more power, meaning that altitude performance, weight-lifting ability and time-to-climb will improve. The two rotors also compensate for bank and sideslip. Single-rotor helicopters all fly with a bank of 2 or 3 degrees and slight sideslip. This helicopter flies without bank and sideslip. It seems unimportant, but it makes piloting and targeting easier and improves hit accuracy. It means that the overall combat qualities of the vehicle are improved. Many people ignore these nuances. But the final result is made of such “unimportant” things and in the end the vehicle wins the fight. In battle every millimetre of the field of vision, every degree of manoeuvrability and every kilometre of speed matters.
- It is always crowded around the Ka-52 here at Le Bourget, with a lot of pilots around in particular. What are your foreign colleagues interested in? What do they say about Russian-produced helicopters?
Cherednichenko: People who work with helicopters ask professional questions. They tut and roll their eyes appreciatively. And the vehicle deserves it – it flies beautifully and looks menacing. Enemies should be afraid of it and friends show their respect.
- What can you tell us about Paris Air Show 2013 in general?
Cherednichenko: I have never participated in international airshows outside Russia before. The first impression is that not a lot of demonstration flights are performed here. The program at the MAKS airshow in Moscow is more intense. On the other hand, besides interesting static displays, there are a lot of stands of suppliers of aircraft systems and equipment, materials and gear – I am interested in these. As a helicopter pilot I am also interested in the foreign-produced helicopters demonstrated here. There are a lot of models and we have an opportunity to get inside the cockpit of these vehicles. There are different technical solutions: some of them are successful and others are not so good. Test pilots not only test the vehicles but also take part in the development of helicopters right from the stage of detailed design. Such shows are very useful for us and I believe that they would have been also useful for Air Force pilots. They should come here and gain some valuable experience.
Pavlenko: We must participate in such shows. First of all, it helps to bill ourselves correctly and understand our status, monitor progress and our weaknesses to develop competitive products in future. Avionics technology is advancing in leaps and bounds. Avionics and ergonomics are very important areas today. Of course I don’t try to detract from the merit of the carrier – at present our vehicles are as good as foreign-produced ones. And we have to continue to work on improving control systems, steadiness and automation.
Reworking a classic
01.07.2013 / Rotorhub
by Alexander Mladenov
The latest derivative of the Mi-8/17 family claims some 80 improvements, targeting enhanced performance, improved reliability/safety and reduced operating costs. Alexander Mladenov examines the revitalisation effort for the omnipresent Russian classic heavy twin.
Russian Helicopters holding – the parent company of Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, the design authority for the Mi-171A2 – has utilised 50 years of design, production and maintenance experience with the Mi-8/17 family on the new type. It has committed to bringing an updated design of the multirole best-seller in the 13t class to market, with more impressive hot-and-high operating capabilities and versatile cabin configurations.
Its main roles include passenger and cargo transport, including SAR and VIP, but is primarily aimed at the prominent Russian operators – such as UTair and Gazpromavia – serving the booming domestic oil and gas sector, where the revitalised machine is expected to have a significant market impact. Russian helicopters has projected the Mi-171A2 production run to total 400 units between 2015 and 2025, however no firm orders have been placed yet.
The Mi-171A2 is also aimed at the Mi-8/17’s traditional and lucrative export markets of China, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Another category of prospective customers include resourceful Russian government organisations, including the Federal Security Service, the MoD, Ministry of Emergency Situations and Ministry of the Interior, all of which operate large Mi-8/17 fleets and foresee new large-scale procurements in the near to medium term.
As Dmitry Petrov, CEO of Russian Helicopters, noted in May, the Mi-171A2 is aimed at retaining the Mi-8/17’s long-standing competitive advantages in the coming 10-15 years, allowing the sole Russian rotorcraft manufacturer to preserve its dominant position in this class.
Petrov claimed that the programme is on schedule, with a flying test-bed currently being used to evaluate some of the most important design elements, such as the new rotor system with composite rotor blades, modified main rotor hub and swashplate. To date, flight testing has achieved promising results, as both the new and modified systems performed to expectations, demonstrating low vibration and noise levels and a maximum speed of 160kt. Performance gains provided by the new rotor system include a cruise speed increase of 15% and some 700kg lift increase due to the more aerodynamic rotor blades.
In total, Russian Helicopters aims at achieving a 10% direct operating cost reduction from the lower number of checks required and extended maintenance intervals, while a further 7% reduction will come from the improved design and 15% through optimised technical servicing activities. For instance, the number of maintenance man hours needed for one flight hour is expected to be reduced from 20, as per the current Mi-171, to eight or ten for the new derivative.
The improved rotor hub and swashplate feature around a two times reduction in the number of lubrication points (from 35 to 15 each) and their total weight is reduced by 58kg, while doubling the estimated lifespan. The new composite main rotor blades have a four and a half times longer life than the metal ones used by the classic Mi-8/17 variants (9,000 versus 2,000 hours), and for the rotor blades that increase is three-fold.
The main gearbox’s life is an estimated 9,000 hours or 20 years, and TBO is 3,000/6,000/2000 hours for the Mi-8/17s respectively. The Mi-171A2’s airframe is promised with an 18,000-hour life, compared to 7,000 for the classic versions.
An all-new life-cycle management system is also offered to provide enhanced safety, reliability and efficiency.
In 2010, Russian Helicopters launched a major research and development programme, the first to be based on significant feedback from major commercial and government operators in Russia. The enquiries revealed a number of customer requirements for re-worked Mi-8/17s, with significantly extended retirement time and TBO lim its, reduced maintenance, better avionics outfit and improved performance, as well as an easy cabin reconfiguration and vastly enhanced crashworthiness and survivability characteristics.
The design team at Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant adopted somewhat of a conservative approach in terms of the fuselage modifications in order to reduce risk and facilitate rapid development and certification. As a result, most if not all fuselage design features proven on the Mi-171A were retained, and the all-metal structure and materials remained unchanged as its basic outer ‘mould line’. There were, however, structural reinforcements implemented into the cabin floor in order to allow installation of crashworthy ‘stroking’ passenger seats.
The Mi-171A2 incorporates an all-new powerplant, avionics system and improved rotor and transmission system built to new standards for longer life and better aerodynamic performance. The modified rotor hub and main rotor blades were derived from that fitted to Mi-38s. The X-shaped tail rotor provides increased stability in hover, which translates to better controllability in high-crosswind conditions and reduces the noise level by 20%.
The modified main gearbox, redesigned to be able to handle the increased power delivered by the new Klimov VK-2500PS-03 engines, sports a newly added 30-minute run-dry capability. The new derivative also retained the operating temperature range of its predecessor, from -50°C to +50°C, as well as the ice protection system.
The square-section cabin has a 4.21m2 cross-sectional area, a 23m3 volume, and is 6.36m in length, 2.34m wide and 1.8m high. It can be equipped with seats for up to 24 passengers, which is ideal for passenger/offshore transport roles. The spacious cabin can also accommodate up to 14 executive passengers plus a flight attendant when used for VIP transport. For cargo transport, it can be equipped with a roller-track conveyor and has tie-down points.
There was a specific request from potential customers, including UTair, for the certification of an easy-to-convert cabin from passenger to cargo transport configuration and vice versa.
The external cargo system includes an automatic weight meter for the load and TV cameras for observation of the sling load behaviour in flight. The cargo hook capacity is increased to 5,000kg due to the more powerful engines and robust main rotor system. A Russian HUMS is also offered as a standard for the Mi-171A2.
The Klimov VK-2500PS-03 turboshaft, an up-rated and significantly updated derivative of today’s TV3-117VM powering the classic versions, is rated at 1,900shp to 2,400shp for take-off (lim ited to 60 and 30 minutes respectively), while the one engine operative rating is 2,700shp, maintained for two and half minutes.
This engine, expected to be certified by the Russian civil aviation authorities this year, is a derivative of the military-standard VK-2500-2, powering both the Mil Mi-28N(E) and Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters, and features an anti-surge protection system and dual-channel FADEC. New Pall dust protection filters provide up to 95% efficiency in terms of cleaning intake air from dust and sand.
The powerplants are fed by separate fuel systems. The new Safír-5K/G auxiliary power unit, already used on some military derivatives of the Mi-171, has the capability to provide engine start-up at elevations of up to 19,700ft above sea level.
The more powerful engines provide the Mi-171A2 with Cat A capability at an MTOW of 13,000kg, while Cat B is granted for the MTOW of 13,500kg with external cargo sling. Estimated engine life is 9,000 hours and TBO is 3,000 hours, wh ereas the TV3-117VMA powering the classic Mi-171s is only 4,500 and 1,500 hours respectively.
In combination with the redesigned and more efficient main rotor, the VK-2500PS-03 engines are promising an attractive payload/range capability and considerable increase in speed. The Mi-171A2’s range on internal fuel is 800km at maximum cruise speed of 140kt, which is 22kt more than that of the Mi-171, and the maximum speed is 150kt compared to 135kt for its predecessor.
Avionics and autopilot
There has also been significant progress in the avionics and automatic flight control areas, as the new Mi-171A2 is equipped as standard with the PKV-171A dual-channel, fully digital four-axis autopilot. Meanwhile, the KBO-17 avionics system, supplied by Ulyanovsk Instrument Design Bureau, incorporates a glass cockpit with four 6x8in high-resolution LCDs – an additional 15in display located in the centre is used for displaying digital maps or images derived from the FLIR or KOC-17 enhanced vision system. The latter is an all-new system installed in the nose, incorporating TV and IR cameras (housed in a common body) for round-the-clock operation, covering a 120° arc.
There are options to incorporate downwards/rearwards-pointing cameras for improved crew situation awareness in complex and workload-intensive situations, such as external load transportation, construction works and SAR, using the winch or confined-area landings. The new avionics system also takes over the flight engineer functions thanks to the high level of automation of most if not all system control and monitoring functions, thus enabling crew reduction to two – pilot and co-pilot.
The KBO-17 also incorporates the SPP-5 solid-state backup instrumentation system, the PVN-1-03 satellite navigation system with GPS/GLONASS capability and the Rockwell Collins NAV-4000 integrated navigation receiver, incorporating the VOR/localizer, glideslope, marker beacon and ADF receivers into a single package. A simplified version of the KBO-17 system is used on the Kamov Ka-226, which is to be certified by Russian civil aviation authorities by the end of 2013.
The Mi-171A2’s SAR version will be equipped with FLIR, a searchlight and rescue hoists with capacity between 150 and 300kg, while the PKV-171A autopilot will be enhanced with additional SAR modes as well as auto-hover and auto-approach to a geographic point.
The first flying prototype, designated Mi-171A2 OP-1, is currently under completion at Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant experimental facility at Tomilino, near Moscow, and is tentatively slated to make its maiden flight by August or September. Russian type certification under the AP-29 airworthiness rules is expected to be obtained in late 2014 and the first production Mi-171A2s are to roll out the production line at Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant in Siberia in 2015.
Russian Helicopters is also aiming for EASA certification following Russian type certification. This is why, according to Petrov, the basis for the former has already been included during the development phase of Mi-171A2 modifications.
This credential will be particularly useful for the helicopter’s offshore transport configuration, as it will allow the company to penetrate new markets and consolidate its position on the existing domestic and traditional export markets, as the compliance with the rigorous European flight safety requirements and certification standards is highly appreciated by both customers and aviation authorities.
In order to repeat the commercial success of its predecessor, the Mi-172A2 design and programme management teams have had to address three principal challenges. The first is actually providing the gains promised in performance and reductions in operating costs at an attractive acquisition price (believed to be within $15 million of the baseline certified configuration).
The second refers to ensuring an overall high level of reliability and safety for the new-generation avionics and systems incorporated into the updated derivative, as these factors are going to have a significant impact maintenance costs and availability.
The third is related to establishing a suitable working product support and training infrastructure worldwide, a problem common to the entire Russian helicopter industry today, as well as to most, if not all, domestic and export operators of the type.
Another critical risk to the programme – and common occurrence affecting most new Russian helicopter projects – is the Mi-171A2’s certification being delayed. If this happens during testing and certification, market introduction would be postponed and no doubt have a negative impact on the type’s sales campaign, especially in the new demanding export markets.
The Changing Face of Russian Helicopters
11.07.2013 / Vertical
by Mike Hampson
Before the Russian government created Russian Helicopters on August 16, 2007, there were several Russian helicopter plants — including Mil and Kamov — each with its own website. Consolidation of these enterprises into one holding company was completed some time ago, but their individual websites remained online until March 11 of this year, when they were taken down to focus attention on Russian Helicopters’ consolidated website, www.russianhelicopters.aero.
If you haven't seen the Russian Helicopters website, it’s worth a look. With an attractive modern design highlighting the company’s new name, logo and slogan (“Experience and Innovation”), the website is comprehensive and easy to navigate. The quality of Russian Helicopters’ online presence mirrors the quality of its products, which are appreciated around the world for being well-built, rugged and reliable.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Roman Kirillov of Russian Helicopters about the Russian Helicopters website, and how it reflects the company’s broader approach toward integrating its legendary brands.
Q. What is the thinking behind the formation of one Russian Helicopters company?
A. Consolidating all of the Russian helicopter design and construction enterprises into one holding company makes great sense fr om a commercial point of view. By bringing together some of the world's most famous and most respected helicopter manufacturers, we were able to create a powerhouse capable of competing in the global marketplace.
Russian-made helicopters are operating in more than 100 countries around the world, and account for about 14 percent of global helicopter fleets. Last year we were by a long way the market leader in Russia, also taking 14 percent of the market share of sales worldwide. Together we are much stronger, and are able to benefit fr om synergies between the strengths of our brands.
Q. How has restructuring and putting all the Russian helicopter plants under one organization improved Russian helicopters?
A. The great advantage of combining all of Russia's helicopter manufacturing assets into one company is that we have created a company that is more than the sum of its parts. Russian Helicopters today is a global powerhouse that offers the full cycle of helicopter manufacturing, from design and testing to the actual build and then subsequently the after-sales maintenance and service. We have achieved significant economies of scale, and are able to offer an unrivaled model range of helicopters, particularly in the medium class.
Furthermore we are able to benefit from combining the expertise of some of the world's best-known design and manufacturing companies. An obvious example of this is the National Helicopter Building Centre that has been established outside of Moscow based on the Mil and Kamov bureaux. With our position of global strength in terms of sales we are also able to think globally regarding other aspects of our business too, this means areas such as after-sales service, wh ere we are rolling out a global network of centers to provide maintenance and upgrade services to Russian built helicopters wh erever they are flying in the world.
Q. How did Russian Helicopters come up with the new Russian Helicopters branding, identity, logo and slogan?
A. The Russian Helicopters logo is a simple and striking design that reflects what the company does. A modern company active in today's global marketplace. The slogan "Experience And Innovation" characterizes the company's activity: the companies that make up Russian Helicopters draw on more than 60 years of expertise in the design of modern and progressive helicopters by using the latest innovative technologies and cooperating with international partners.
Q. Tell me about your new logo, what was the reasoning and inspiration behind this new logo?
A. The logo is a dynamic and powerful reflection of Russian Helicopters that retains the recognition we have built up over the years while creating a new brand with a forward-looking, clean and modern style. It combines a circle and three helicopter blades, using asymmetry to create a dynamic effect. The typeface used for the name Russian Helicopters is the same as that in the logo of our parent company, Oboronprom, which creates a visual link between the two enterprises and strengthens the recognition of the brand. The color scheme used is also the same, for similar reasons.
Q. When did Russian Helicopters actually launch their new website?
A. The site was launched in 2010.
Q. Tell me about the new Russian Helicopters' website and its purpose?
A. The new website aims to be a single resource for operators of Russian Helicopters, potential customers and eventually investors, providing information about our company and our products and services.
We are striving to meet the standards expected from a leading global company; this includes communication with all current and potential stakeholders in our business and anyone with an interest in Russian helicopter manufacturing. The Russian Helicopters website is continually being updated to reflect current trends. It is very popular with users from around the world, and is available in three languages — Russian, English and Spanish.
Q. Have the names Kamov, Kazan, Mil, etc. gone forever? Will these names (and corresponding logos) ever be used again on newly made Russian helicopters?
A. The names have certainly not gone forever. Russian Helicopters is extremely fortunate to be the owner of brands that can without exaggeration be described as legendary in the world of helicopter manufacturing. So it would be foolish, not to mention almost insulting, to the history of those great names to try to reinvent the wheel by creating something entirely new. We are very proud of our history, and will continue promoting Mil, Kamov etc. under one brand.
Russia Looks to Recharge Helicopter Industry
The end of the Cold War spelled disaster for Russia's helicopter industry.
19.08.2013 / Aviation Week
by Tony Osborne
Fledgling programs were left stillborn and starved of development funds as the new Russia tried to slip the anchors of socialism. The small number of orders that did arise were pursued by two factories in Ulan-Ude and Kazan, building Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters. As both plants competed to produce aircraft, the result was cutthroat pricing which starved them of funds to carry out urgently needed research and development for new products.
But the birth of the Russian Helicopters consortium in 2007 and the Russian government's desire to transform its military into a leaner, more agile force has given the country's helicopter industry the shot in the arm it has long needed. Programs that had been little more than prototypes for more than a decade are finally beginning to see the light of day, entering production and operational service.
Both the Mil Mi-28N(E) “Night Hunter” and the Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopters were once stagnant programs, but are now maturing into service and being offered for export as Russia tries to win back helicopter markets it once held firmly with sales of the Hip and the Hind. These markets have been hit hard by sales of Western types such as the Boeing AH-64 Apache.
Like the country's helicopter industry, Russia's armed forces were also in the grip of obsolescence, with aging types dominating the inventory. However, the new wave of renewal means that by 2020 the Russian military services will be equipped with around 1,000 new-build helicopters.
The Ka-52 and Mi-28N(E) are linchpins of this modernization, but the choice to integrate both surprised many observers who thought that there would only be room for one attack helicopter in the future inventory. But senior commanders point out that the complex and heavily armed Mi-28N(E) is more suited for operations west of the Urals, while the Ka-52 with its unique co-axial configuration and robustness may be more appropriate for the more remote regions of the country. Back in the 1990s, commanders sel ected the Ka-50 — the Ka-52's single-seat predecessor — as the country's primary attack helo, but it did not enter service in significant numbers. A decade later officials reexamined this option, and the Mi-28N(E) was revived.
With increasing numbers now joining the Russian air force, the Mi-28N(E) is enjoying significant interest from export customers. Russian Helicopters, and Russian weapons export ompany Rosoboronexport are optimistic that the type could replace some of the sizable fleet of Mi-24 and Mi-35 Hinds which remain in service today.
Although trumped by the Apache to meet India's attack helicopter requirement, the aircraft already has its first export customer. Reports fr om Russia suggest that Iraq will be the Mi-28N(E)'s next customer, with an order for 10 linked to a $4.3 billion arms transfer agreement signed in 2012. Reports that the type in service with the armed forces of Kenya have been denied by the manufacturer.
A conventional design, the aircraft uses the tandem seating arrangement used by Western attack helicopters, with targeting sensors arrayed around the nose. So far the Russian air force has ordered around 100 examples of the Mi-28N(E)N, which are being flown in a basic configuration. Eventually the aircraft are expected to receive mast-mounted radar, similar in capability to the Longbow radar fitted to the Apache, although no production aircraft are fitted with this system yet. A training version, dubbed the Mi-28N(E)UB recently made its first flight and will debut at the MAKS 2013 air show.
With exports of the Mi-28N(E) underway, Russian Helicopters is keen to achieve similar success for the co-axial Ka-52, using the Paris air show to demonstrate the type's capabilities during its Western debut. Sergei Mikheev, chief designer at the Kamov Design Bureau said the company was willing to integrate Western weaponry. The aircraft was displayed with MBDA-made weapons including the PARS 3LR, which has been down-selected as a possible weapon for Indian attack helicopters. Typical armament for the land-based aircraft includes the Russian-made 9K121 Vikhr and 9M120 Ataka-V anti-tank missiles, the Igla-S air-to-air missile and a 30-mm cannon.
Mikheev says he is confident about export opportunities for the rotorcraft in India despite the fact that the country has already selected the AH-64. A naval version of the Ka-52 — the Ka-52K — is also being produced in preparation for Russia's purchase of the French-designed Mistral helicopter carrier. These aircraft will be given anti-corrosion treatments and a folding main rotor head to prepare for a life at sea. The Ka-52K will also carry a different suite of weapons, although Mikheev would not say which weapons. It is also unclear when the first Ka-52K would fly, although at Paris Mikheev said the aircraft would be ready for the arrival of the first Mistral, expected in 2014. The type will be embarked alongside the Kamov Ka-27 and Ka-29 naval and utility co-axial helicopter types.
MAKS: Russian Helicopters grows backlog for Kamov Ka-62
28.08.2013 / Flightglobal
by Michael Gubich
Russian Helicopters strengthened the backlog of its developmental Kamov Ka-62 medium twin on the first day of the MAKS air show, with an order for five of the 6.5t type from Colombian operator Vertical de Aviación.
The firm is the second Latin American customer for the new helicopter, with Brazil's Atlas Táxi Aéreo in December 2012 having committed to seven of the type.
First flight of the Ka-62, which will be powered by Turbomeca Ardiden 3G engines, is pegged for the end of the year, with entry-into-service due to follow in 2015. However, a press release from Turbomeca suggests the maiden sortie could take place "in the coming weeks".
A completed prototype of the 15-passenger helicopter was shown on the static display at MAKS. It will undergo ground tests over the coming months, says Alexander Vagin, Kamov's chief designer.
Russian Helicopters intends to perform certification trials with a three-strong flight test fleet. The second prototype should arrive in December, with a sister aircraft following in early 2014.
Two additional Ka-62 airframes will be used for ground tests. One fuselage will be employed in static tests, while the other - equipped with powerplants, gearboxes and landing gear - will undergo engine and transmission system trials.
Vagin says the flight test programme should be finished either in late 2014 or early 2015, with certification and deliveries following.
The manufacturer will also work with both its Latin American customers to obtain certification for the Ka-62 from their respective national regulators, Kamov says.
Kamov aims to produce up to 35 units a year, although the capacity could be expanded if necessary, adds Vagin.
Vertical de Aviación additionally ordered five Mil Mi-171As at MAKS, for use in a transport role at its Mexican subsidiary.
Russian Helicopters' Programs, Sales Move Forward
02.10.2013 / AIN Online
by Thierry Dubois
In a bid to establish an equal footing with Western helicopter manufacturers, Russian Helicopters recently made multiple announcements about sales, programs and joint ventures.
First, the company certified the Ansat light twin, one of a number of helicopters the company has in development (see box). Certified with conventional flight controls rather than the fly-by-wire (FBW) controls originally planned, the Ansat fell short of being the first commercial helicopter with a FBW system. This was the initial plan but “no commercial FBW helicopter had obtained certification anywhere in the world, and there were no established requirements for such a helicopter,” the company said to explain its development of the conventional version.
The helicopter retains the same takeoff weight (7,900 pounds) and technical parameters, according to Kazan Helicopters, the subsidiary in charge of designing and producing the type. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207Ks and can carry eight passengers at a cruise speed of 119 knots. The Ansat has already been demonstrated in the CIS, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to its manufacturer.
With certification in hand from Russia’s Aviation Register of the Interstate Aviation Committee (AR IAC), Russian Helicopters is considering applying for EASA certification in the future, depending on European market demand. Meanwhile, the company is delivering the FBW version to the Russian Defense ministry.
The corporate/executive version of the Mi-171 also received AR IAC certification. The “central passenger salon” can accommodate up to eight passengers and one steward, according to Russian Helicopters. The designer and outfitter of the luxury interior, AeroTaxi-Service, has put an emphasis on thermal insulation and soundproofing of the cabin.
Instead of a UHF radio, the helicopter is equipped with a Prima-VHF radio. In addition, it has “radio equipment for providing in-flight updates and entertainment to passengers, a Pulsar radio station and universal communication unit.”
Russian Helicopters is also making some progress on its design of a 5,500-pound light single as a 50-50 joint venture with AgustaWestland. “The preliminary assessment of the helicopter’s technical design and commercial opportunities is expected to be completed in the next few months,” the two companies said. The aircraft, smaller than the AW119, would compete with the Eurocopter EC130T2. Certification is expected in 2016, a Russian Helicopters spokesperson told AIN.
The Moscow-based manufacturer had a significant presence at the MAKS 2013 airshow in Zhukovsky. At the August event, the company showed the prototype of the Ka-62 medium twin for the first time. Manufactured at Russian Helicopters’ Arsenyev plant, it could fly this fall. Colombia’s Vertical de Aviacion has ordered five of the aircraft to serve the oil industry there. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2016.
Vertical de Aviacion simultaneously ordered five Mi-171A1s, to be delivered beginning in 2015 and to operate in Mexico for cargo and passenger flights. The type can carry 26 passengers or four metric tons (8,800 pounds) of freight. The Colombian company currently operates 30 Mi-17s.
It will work with Russian Helicopters to obtain the certification of the Mi-171A1 in Mexico and the Ka-62 in Colombia. Such collaboration last year resulted in the Colombian aviation authorities’ validating the Mi-171’s AR IAC type certification.
Another sales contract was signed with Kazakhstan’s Almaty Rescue Service for one Mi-8AMT medium twin. Fitted with an anti-icing system and an SLG-300 cargo winch, the helicopter will be used for rescue and medevac missions in urban and mountain areas. Delivery is scheduled for next year.
Also on display at MAKS 2013 was the Mi-171A2, the latest in the Mi-8/17 series. The helicopter’s AR IAC certification is pegged for next year, with customer deliveries to start in 2015. A second prototype is to join the development program by year-end.
The helicopter is powered by two 2,400-shp Klimov VK2500PS-03 turboshafts in place of 2,200-shp TV3-117VMs. The transmission and rotor systems have been modified to extend the helicopter’s operating life. The main rotor is now made of composites and the tail rotor is X-shaped.
In the cockpit, the Mi-171A2 features a KBO-17 avionics suite, designed to make the helicopter more responsive and reduce crew workload. The equipment also includes a PKV-171A digital autopilot.
Another, minor announcement by Russian Helicopters was a memorandum of understanding with Turbomeca to open a maintenance center for the Arrius 2G1 and Ardiden 3G, which power the Ka-226T light twin and the Ka-62, respectively.
As of August, Russian Helicopters had a backlog of orders for 870 aircraft, to be produced by 2020. The company plans to export 232 helicopters in that period, according to the Itar-Tass new agency. The same source said this year that the company is planning to sell 25 civil helicopters outside Russia, out of a total of 71 civil deliveries.
Russia Means Business: Marketing War, not Cold War
01.10.2013 / Rotor & Wing
by Andrew Drwiega
For a journalist who was brought up during the Cold War, when NATO and Soviet Bloc forces were layered in depth either side of Churchill’s Iron Curtain, witnessing the transformation that has taken place within Russia over the last decade has been a revelation.
A decade ago when I travelled to Kazan city to view the Mi-8/Mi-17 production line, my presence was treated with some suspicion by plant managers with a thin veneer of liberalism but who, in practice, owed their way of thinking to their experience of life in the Soviet Union. Even then, the prospect of me visiting an attack helicopter factory was beyond the realms of possibility.
Fast-forward a decade and that visit became a reality in August this year. It was an event that really underlined to me not only how much Russia has gained in confidence about its own status in the world, but how it has watched and learned in a short number of years what it needs to do in order to reach out to the international market. It has learned that, more now than ever and especially in the defense sector, it is a buyer’s market and if customers want this type of avionics, that type of engine performance and their own unique mission systems, they can go out and find OEMs eager to please and grab the business, foreign military sales (FMS) permitting.
I eagerly accepted the invitation from Russian Helicopters (overseen by the state owned aerospace organization Oboronprom) to visit its subsidiary, the Rostvertol helicopter plant, located at Rostov-on-Don. This is the main production facility for the Mi-28N(E) Night Hunter and the most recent version of the Mi-24/35, the Mi-35M combat support helicopter. If that were not enough, it also produces and updates the world’s largest helicopter, the Mi-26.
Russian Helicopters CEO Dmitry Petrov provided the welcome in Moscow, claiming that his organization had recorded stable growth over the past five years. The organization’s revenue grew by 21 percent in 2012 over 2011 to RUB 125.7 billion ($3.9 billion) and that net profit was RUB9.4 billion ($297 million) showing a growth of 35 percent. He stated that Russian Helicopters had manufactured 290 helicopters between all the various production facilities (Mil, Kazan, Kamov, Rostvertol and Ulan-Ude) over the last year, with an order book at 828 helicopters.
Focusing more specifically on the Rostvertol helicopter plant, he announced that planning was well under way to move the facility from its present location in the city to an old military airfield with an existing runway around 20km away on the other side of the Don river. When the plant was first laid down in 1939, it was on the outskirts of the city but in 70 years the city has expanded and now surrounds it. The move would begin in 2014 with flight testing relocating first, to relieve the noise for residents surrounding the existing plant. However, the move would have to be carefully managed as the Rostvertol plant currently has manufacturing scheduled out to 2020.
Hinds, Havocs and Halos
Founded on July 1, 1939, the first aviation plant at Rostov-on-Don produced wooden propellers for fixed-wing aircraft, then during the World War II (or Great Patriotic War as it is known locally); actual aircraft were produced in the form of Yakovlev UT-2M trainers and Polikarpov PO-2 biplane bombers.
Today, Rostvertol works is at the forefront of Russian military helicopter production turning out the latest Mi-28N(E)NE Night Hunter attack helicopter. Rostvertol claims that it is the first in Russian aviation history capable of loops and barrel rolls.
The training version of the Mi-28N(E), the Mi-28NUB, was just publically revealed in the summer during the MAKS airshow in Moscow, although its maiden demonstration flight was conducted prior to that in Rostov on August 9. This version incorporates a duel hydro mechanical flight control system for pilot training, while still retaining its attack capability. In order for flight control to be available in both cockpits, Rostvertol expanded the instructor’s canopy and made changes to the energy absorbing seats.
The Mi-28NUB’s weight has slightly increased. There was an initial investigation into installing a fly-by-wire control system but, according to chief engineer Andrey Varfolomeyev, “we believe mechanical systems are more reliable in battlefield conditions. We don’t have a big experience in fly-by-wire but believe combat survivability is best ensured by mechanical systems.”
One oddity of the Mi-28N(E) is the focus on crew survival. Not only is the landing gear designed with shock absorbers, but there are also shock-absorbing seats to ensure survival of the crew at a landing speed of 12m/second – basically in free fall, stated Varfolomeyev. In 90 percent of emergencies this will apply. But there is also a parachute system to enable the crew to bail out of a stricken helicopter in an emergency. The pilot and observer/weapons officer exit from the top right and bottom left of the aircraft, respectively, after pulling an emergency handle. This activates the door ejection system and the wings are also detached. However, there is a 4-5 second wait for the built-in inflatable chute (ballonet – which “resembles a sofa”) is deployed to stop the aircrew falling back into the landing gear, explained by chief engineer Varfolomeyev. Once all this is deployed the crew abandons the aircraft using their parachutes, although Varfolomeyev states that this would only be used in extreme cases. How practical this would be in an actual emergency has not been proven.
Also sharing the production line is the newest version of its successful Mi-24 attack helicopter, the Mi-35M (Hind E). Improvements include composite main and tail rotor blades and gone are the old steam gauges, replaced by glass cockpits and a sensor pod with thermal imager and laser range finder.
The use of composite materials in Russian construction techniques, particularly in main and tail rotors, are giving the aircraft more lift capability and maneuverability.
Varfolomeyev said that the Mi-35M now has a common tail rotor design with the Mi-28N(E)N. “In the previous model Mi-35, we had three rotor blades but with the new design we use four rotor blades,” he said, adding that it allows for a more powerful thrust from the main rotor. The blades set together rather than at 90 degrees also reduces noise signature, something the aircraft have in common with Boeing’s Apache AH-64.
There is a schedule to update the Mi-35M with dynamic software every two or three years, but Varfolomeyev predicts that there will be little further in the way of modernization except for main rotor system components. “Probably the most cutting-edge design of the rotor blade will be finalized and of course, if new armaments systems appear we will fit them,” he added.
Finally, the Mi-26 occupies the left-hand side of the production line in workshop 3 (the final assembly building). It is here that the attack helicopters are fitted with their engines, avionics and weapons systems. On my visit there were three of the huge Mi-26 airframes in the building, although none were the new Mi-26T2 version that is completing testing, some of which was conducted in Algeria. This latest version will again offer a glass cockpit and new avionics, which has allowed a reduction to only two crewmembers (three when conducting external lifting). Testing will be completed during 2014 at which point it will be marketed internationally. “This is a helicopter that can carry 20 tons, a requirement all over the world,” stated Varolomeyev.
One of the most impressive features resides within the rotor blade production facility is the spa winding machine that creates the fiberglass blades for main and tail rotors. This is a new addition to Rostvertol’s range of manufacturing tools and has its own isolated room away from the main blade production area. According to the company, winding the fiberglass thread impregnated with a binding compound onto a blade takes two days on the machine, with winding taking place at an angle of 30 degrees. The tension that is kept throughout the winding phase gives the blade a 30 percent increase in resistance to combat damage, said chief engineer Varfolomeyev.
Boris Slyusar: 53-year Veteran
Meeting Boris Slyusar, Rostvertol’s director general, was akin to taking a step back in time. Sitting at the far end of his large office, he talked about his first day at the factory 53 years virtually to the day: “I worked as an assembler in Workshop 43, on Aug. 17, 1960. The only time I left the company was for three years to do my military service. The first helicopter that I worked on was the Mi-6, wh ere I was a riveter. Looking back, it seems as though the whole of the oil industry in Siberia was developed using the Mi-6.”
Rostvertol CEO Boris Slyusar
Slyusar is looking forward to the company’s 75th Jubilee year in 2014. Reflecting on bygone years, he recalls: “In the 1960s, 70s and 80s we were busy because we supplied all the counties of the Soviet Union with aircraft.” He quickly adds that when the “hard times” arrived in the 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, many companies could not keep personnel due to a lack of revenue being generated. “But we managed to survive and kept paying the salaries of our staff,” he affirms.
Today, Rostvertol is trying to push the boundaries of each aspect of aircraft production. Slyusar believes that the Mi-28N(E)UB training aircraft is one that will have great appeal. “Even the Americans envy us as it is better to train a pilot on a live helicopter than on a simulator,” he stated [although this will not be a sentiment shared by those at the U.S. Army’s Flight School XXI].
Slyusar confirmed that a customer already exists for the Mi-26T2 and that factor is driving the test program: “We have to keep pace with the contract as the first delivery is scheduled for the fourth quarter in 2014,” he said.
The company’s work schedule is governed by two production plans he revealed. One is a short-term plan to 2015 while the second maps out activity to 2020. “Each year we specify how improvements will be added to the helicopters we produce, from materials to systems upgrades.”
The director general was proud of the fact that investment has been made in modernizing the plant, particularly in the galvanizing of parts, and in the investment in main and tail rotor production. He highlighted European-made equipment, which is helping to refine production in various areas. “We are the only company that is buying such high priced equipment.”
Now a reality is the objective of manufacturing tail rotor blades across the whole Mil family of helicopters, all the way to those used by the Mi-26. “We have a huge dynamic testing laboratory and we will be certified to produce these tail rotor components across the market. Full-scale production of tail rotors will commence in 2014.”
Slyusar concludes in estimating that the relocation of the Rostvertol company to its new home will take between three and five years beginning with flight testing. When asked if the production rate would increase at the new site, or if more types would be added, he was non-committal, saying that it depended on the national military requirement and the international market.
A final impression of this visit would be to underline the hospitality, openness, and willingness of all those at Rostvertol to discuss any points relating to the aircraft’s armament, performance and future plans for the development of the business. This could easily have been a visit to a Boeing, Eurocopter or Bell facility in terms of information exchanged. And a final closing point, English labels have replaced Cyrillic around the aircraft – a small point perhaps, but a firm concession to international customers.