MAKS 2011: Russia and China discuss joint heavy lift helicopter
The Russian and Chinese governments remain in discussion about the potential joint production of a new heavy lift helicopter that would be based on the Mil Mi-26.
At the MAKS air show outside Moscow on 16 August, a spokesman for Russian Helicopters confirmed that the holding company was working on a proposal for a joint venture (JV) with an undisclosed Chinese partner but noted it needed approval at the governmental level first.
While the spokesman would not name the Chinese company, it has previously been reported that state-owned Avicopter is working with Russian Helicopters on the development of a helicopter in the class of the Mil Mi-26.
In March 2010, Hang Zhang Biao, director of the Chinese government’s industrial science and technology committee, urged that the development of an indigenous heavy-lift helicopter was a ‘national priority’ particularly when it came to issues such as disaster relief.
The Russian Helicopter’s spokesman said the holding company’s involvement centred on its experience producing the Mi-26, although whether the JV aimed to produce an aircraft as powerful as the Russian heavy lifter was still to be determined.
The proposal reflects a strategy followed by Western helicopter manufacturers, several of which have entered into partnerships and joint development with Chinese companies in recent years, such as Eurocopter’s joint production of the EC175 (AC532) with Avicopter.
The long-anticipated opening up of China’s airspace to private and commercial helicopter operators, which seems to be nearing following the announcement in November 2010 that the government had decided to speed up the reform, has only added impetus to such moves.
The capabilities of the Mi-26 itself are well known within China due to the efforts of the aircraft following the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. In June a Chinese delegation that included Vice-Premier of the State Council Wang Qishan visited Kazan Helicopters to view the Mi-17 and Ansat production lines and discuss progress of the new medium multirole Mi-38 programme.
Meanwhile, Russian Helicopters used MAKS to publicly display its modernised Mi-26T2 to the public for the first time.
The modernised version of the aircraft, which is currently continuing test flights at the Rostvertol facility and has now logged 10 flight hours, is being developed towards an Indian defence ministry tender for 15 heavy lift helicopters. According to Russian Helicopters, demonstration flights of the Mi-26T2 have already been held for an Indian delegation.
The spokesman said the helicopter was fitted with a modern BREO-26 avionics suite designed by Ramenskoye Design Company and a glass cockpit equipped with five multi-functional LCDs that can display a coloured image of external load.
The Mi-26T2 also features a new digital autopilot, a new navigation system supporting NAVSTAR/GLONASS and an additional Tranzas TSL-1600 light to visually control external loads at night.
Such features have allowed the crew to be reduced from five to two while the new avionics allow the aircraft to be operated under international IFR standards.
The modernised D-136-2 engines have increased take-off power to 250hp at maximum take-off mode. The Mi-26T2 has a MTOW of 56 tons, is able to carry 20 tons as a load, and has a maximum range of 800km. Ferry range with additional fuels tanks has increased to 1905km.
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