Russia and China have officially launched a joint development of a new heavy helicopter with a framework agreement signed in early May between the Russian Helicopters holding and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
According to the Russian manufacturer, the future rotorcraft named Advanced Heavy Lifter will have a take-off weight of 38 tons, and to be able to carry 10 tons of cargo inside the cabin or 15 tons on an external sling. This means it will be smaller than the world’s largest helicopter – Mil Mi-26T with 56 tons MTOW and 20 tons of load capacity. It was earlier suggested by the Russian side as a possible platform for the AHL. The future Russo-Chinese aircraft is expected to be capable to perform various missions including transportation, medevac, firefighting and much more.
Russian Helicopters and AVIC have been negotiating on this program for several years. The partners have already defined the preliminary technical specifications of the new helicopter and continue to finalize its concept. The general contract for the AHL development is to be signed later this year, says the Russian manufacturer. The partners expect that demand for the new heavy helicopter in China could exceed 200 airframes by 2040. The new helicopter will be manufactured in China.
As Russia’s vice-premier Dmitry Rogozin mentioned earlier, the Chinese side will act as an investor in the program, which Russia views as a commercial project. He also suggested that Russia could propose a powerplant for the new helicopter. Vladislav Masalov, the head of Russia’s United Engine Corporation, told Show Observer that the aircraft’s new turboshaft engine could be based on the gas generator of the new PD-14 turbofan developed by the corporation for Russia’s MC-21 narrowbody airliner. “We have evaluated [together with Russian Helicopters] the feasibility and deadlines of this work, but Russian Helicopters should issue a formal request for proposal for us, and needs to be interested in the program,” he added.
The AHL will become the second Russo-Chinese aviation program. One year ago, the two countries launched a joint development effort for a future widebody commercial airliner, which is expected to enter service in 2023-25.