Buoyed by strong operating results, Russian Helicopters plans to further expand its products line. Up until now the corporation’s success has been mostly based on robust domestic and international demand for the Mil Mi-8/17 family of heavy transport helicopters. Now Russian Helicopters wants to further improve its bestseller and introduce several new models.
The corporation ended 2012 solidly in the black with 9.4 bln rubles (about $300 mln) in profit, or 35.2% up on the previous year. Its revenue stood at 125.7 bln rubles (+21% year-on-year). Revenues from helicopter sales amounted to 99 bln rubles; revenues from services and support stood at 18.4 bln rubles.
Russian Helicopters explains its financial growth by a 10.7% increase in deliveries: 290 airframes of nine different types were delivered last year to customers in 19 countries. The firm backlog had reached 817 helicopters by the end of 2012, worth a total of 359.9 bln rubles. The corporation reported several major orders last year from India, China and Brazil. Its 2013 plan for deliveries is thus completely secured by firm orders.
The Russian manufacturer says its cost of sales amounted to 79.9 bln rubles (+26.3% year on year) last year, and that its operating expenses equalled 30.6 bln rubles (+18,2%). The solid financial indicators are also attributable to the fact that the company’s cash CAPEX decreased to 13 bln rubles (–5.5%). In particular, investment in production facilities dropped by 16.4% to 7.6 bln rubles.
Russian Helicopters is working to develop the latest iteration of the Mi-8/17 family, to be known as the Mi-171A2. The upgraded version is derived from the Mi-171A1 design, which is currently in production at the Ulan-Ude aviation factory, the corporation’s subsidiary, and has been certified in Russia and Brazil. The new helicopter’s range without auxiliary fuel tanks is expected to be 850 km, against the Mi-171A1’s 610 km. External payload capacity will be increased by 1,000 kg to 5,000 kg.
The first Mil Mi-171A2 prototype may be unveiled at the MAKS 2013 air show outside Moscow in August. The airframe, referred to internally as OP-1, is under construction in Ulan-Ude. The new aircraft’s rotor system is being tested on a dedicated flying testbed. Russian Helicopter reports good progress with the tests: vibration has been considerably reduced and the planned maximum speed of 300 km/h has already been achieved. Thanks to the use of advanced composite materials in the rotor system, the trials have demonstrated a 700-kg increase in main rotor thrust.
Certification work is already underway and should be completed in late 2014. The Mi-171A2 is expected to go into series production in 2015. Russian Helicopters is believed to have received several commercial launch contracts; deliveries should begin in 2015 or 2016.
Another new model to make an appearance at MAKS 2013 may be the 6.5-ton Kamov Ka-62 medium utility helicopter. Russian Helicopters hopes that one of the two Ka-62 prototypes currently being assembled at the Arsenyev Progress production plant will join the flying display at the air show. This would be the first public demonstration of the helicopter in flight. "The Ka-62 will be flying at MAKS if we are completely satisfied that it can perform a spectacular sequence," says the Russian Helicopters’ general director Dmitry Petrov. "It is important that we demonstrate to our current and future customers what the new Russian helicopter is capable of."
French powerplant specialist Turbomeca has delivered 1,680-hp Ardiden 3G turboshaft engines to Russia to power the first Ka-62 prototype. Russian Helicopters says the engines have been successfully tested to validate the correspondence of their performance parameters to the design specifications. The first example of the transmission system designed by Austrian specialist Zoerkler should have been delivered in May.
Russian Helicopters applied for national certification of the Ka-62 in late 2012; the process is expected to be completed by the end of 2014, followed by deliveries from 2015. The Ka-62 seats 12 to 15 passengers and can be used for VIP and shuttle services, freight transportation, emergency medical operations, and various other forms of aerial work.
Among the launch customers is the Brazilian operator Atlas Tаxi Aеreo, which should receive the first of its initial two aircraft in the first quarter of 2015; deliveries will last until 2017 and may comprise a total of 14 airframes. Under the contract, Russian Helicopters and its regional partners will help set up an aftersales maintenance center for Russian-built rotorcraft in Brazil.
Russian Helicopters also continues work on the new Mi-38 transport helicopter, which is aimed as a niche product between the Mi-8/17 and the giant Mi-26. The Mi-38 program has reached another milestone with the roll-out of the third prototype (OP-3) at the Kazan Helicopters facility. This airframe, the first one to be powered by a pair of Klimov TV7-117V turboshafts, will soon be handed over to the type developer, Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, for flight tests. In the meantime, Klimov continues with bench tests of the new powerplant. Two TV7-117V test engines were handed over to Kazan in May for ground tests on OP-3. If the trials prove successful, the helicopter may enter the flight testing phase in July this year. The first two Mi-38 prototypes are powered with an alternative powerplant, the Pratt & Whitney PW127XS.
Kazan Helicopters is preparing to build the fourth Mi-38 prototype. The fuselage should be ready in the first half of 2013. Designated OP-4, the helicopter will differ from OP-3 in having larger windows and a crash-resistant fuel system by Aerazur. This will be the final Mi-38 prototype; it is intended for producing the final test data required for commencement of commercial operations. In addition to the four flying prototypes, a fuselage and sets of individual components have been manufactured this year for fatigue and other tests.
The Mi-38 can carry 7 tons of payload externally. Series production should begin in Kazan in 2015. The Russian Ministry of Defense and several other domestic government agencies are believed to be interested in the type.
Despite its primary focus on the larger types, Russian Helicopters may yet revive the program to re-engine the Mil Mi-34 light helicopter. The effort to develop the Mi-34S1 was suspended in 2012, following the corporation’s failed attempt to secure production of the M9FV piston engine at Voronezh Mechanical Plant. The Mi-34?s original M14V26V powerplant is considered to be obsolete.
Roman Chernyshev, deputy general director for programs and projects at Russian Helicopters, said in May the corporation was in talks with a foreign piston engine manufacturer. Talks are also on with an investor over a launch order for the Mi-34S1. Final agreements may be announced this summer.
According to Chernyshev, the idea to use the Turbomeca Arrius 2F gas-turbine engine for the Mi-34 has been scrapped following last year’s announcement that Russian Helicopters would be developing a new 2.5-ton light single helicopter in conjunction with AgustaWestland. Russian Helicopter expects the new design to go into production at the HeliVert JV in Tomilino outside Moscow. According to Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, the new helicopter is expected to be certified in 2016.