The Russian Helicopters holding company is planning to build 244 helicopters this year. Chief Executive Officer Alexander Mikheev says the company’s backlog stands at 585 units, worth 490 billion rubles ($9.2 billion at the current exchange rate); 67% of the orders in monetary value are for military rotorcraft.
But Russian Helicopters looks to boost sales of its civilian products. “We are bringing five civilian types [of helicopters] to the market,” Mikheev says. “These are the Kamov Ka-62, the Kazan Helicopters Ansat, the Ka-226T, as well as the Mil Mi-171A2 and Mi- 26T2.” The passenger versions of the Ansat and the Ka-226T have recently been certified in Russia. Work continues to develop the other civil products.
The Russian government intends to increase the 2015 budget of the Ka- 62 medium twin helicopter program from the original 1.1 billion rubles to 1.7 billion (up 62.1%). This year’s plans include component endurance tests, the development of working design documentation, extension of the operating envelope, and sales of 29 aircraft.
The Ka-62 has a MTOW of 6,500 kg and can transport 12–15 passengers. Three prototypes have been built to date. The maiden flight is expected to take place in 2015, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Andrey Boginsky said in May, adding that certification is to be completed in 2017.
Static tests should begin in June, says Russian Helicopters’ deputy head for production, Andrey Shibitov. He explains the delays in certification by problems with the program quality management system and the highly innovative nature of the new product. The greatest difficulties are related to the development of the world’s first general helicopter equipment management system dubbed SUOVO.
Nevertheless, despite the complex geopolitical situation, Russian Helicopters has agreed on component deliveries with the program’s foreign suppliers. Three major Ka-62 components are currently produced abroad: the Turbomeca Ardiden 3G powerplant, the Zodiac Aerospace fuel system, and the Zoerkler transmission. Shibitov says Russian Helicopters is looking to replace these with Russianmade equivalents.
“Given the political nuances, we are actively looking to customize and localize as many of the current foreign components in this helicopters as possible,” Shibitov notes. This is particularly important because the Ka-62 will be offered to Russian government agencies.
Russian Helicopters currently has “a suspended firm launch order” for seven of the type, with an option for another seven, from the Brazilian operator Atlas Taxi Aereo, Shibitov says. The contract was signed in 2012.
The program to develop the Mil Mi-38 heavy twin helicopter is drawing to a close. The helicopter will be able to transport 6 tons of freight in cabin or 7 tons underslung, and is aimed at the niche between the best-selling Mi-8/17 family and the Mi-26, the world’s largest production rotorcraft.
Kazan Helicopters, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters, assembled the fourth Mi-83 prototype (OP-4) last year. The helicopter has joined the second and third aircraft in the testing program. The second prototype will be used for ground-testing the rotors and several other mechanical systems. The third and fourth airframes are used in the factory certification tests. The first prototype will be used as a VIP-configured demonstrator. Kazan Helicopters has started assembling the first pre-production airframe.
Earlier, the Russian government planned to allocate 826.8 million rubles for the Mi-38 program in 2015, including 239.7 million from the federal budget and 587.1 million from extrabudgetary funds. Russian Helicopters was planning to obtain the Russian type certificate and sell six aircraft this year.
However, it soon became clear that it would not be possible to achieve these goals with the available budget. The government is now looking into the possibility of allocating additional funds this year, mainly from the federal budget, bringing the total 2015 program funding up to 1.9 billion rubles (3.3 times more than originally planned). Most of the extra money (1.5 billion rubles) should come from the federal budget.
The additional costs are caused by the need to build an additional two prototypes of the TV7-117 turboshaft engine for certification tests, and to hold a series of additional ground and flight tests to meet the current Russian and EASA certification requirements.
Advanced high-speed helicopter
The Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter (RACHEL) program, which has been on for three years, will be split into two separate efforts next year, Boginsky says.
According to Russian Helicopters’ Shibitov, the program has reached the testbed stage; the testbed is expected to be built by year-end and first fly in the first quarter of 2016. Shibitov explains that now, three years into the development, it has become clear that the program should be split in two.
Unlike the US high-speed helicopter program, which is military in nature, and similar purely experimental European efforts, RACHEL has been targeting the commercial market from the start. Polls of prospective operators revealed that the future helicopter’s life cycle cost is of greater priority to customers than its speed. “According to our analysis, even the first stage of the development work, which involves reaching a cruise speed of 360 kmph, would make the helicopter’s life cycle cost too expensive for our potential customers,” Shibitov notes.
It has therefore been decided to continue with the commercial program for a medium helicopter with over 10 tons MTOW, which would incorporate all the achievements of the RACHEL program to date while meeting market expectations. In the meantime, research into high-speed helicopters will continue as a separate effort. The first phase will involve reaching a speed of 360-400 kmph; during the second phase, the airspeed is expected to be pushed to 400-450 kmph and beyond.
Boginsky says that after Russian Helicopters has submitted an updated business plan, corresponding changes will be made to the relevant federal program.
RACHEL funding was stopped in September last year (the program was to be funded to 2.692 billion rubles last year, or $56.4 million at the current exchange rate). This year, as part of the funding program “Aviation mobility and aviation technologies” to develop advanced helicopters, research and experiments will be conducted to improve the performance of helicopters that would allow them to fly at up to 400 kmph. A total of 630 million rubles will be allocated for this purpose from the federal budget; there will be no other sources of funding.
The engine development effort under the RACHEL program also continues. In the first phase, the Klimov VK- 2500M engine will be upgraded with a new compressor, new compressor and free turbines, new control systems, and other improvements. The second phase will comprise the development of a clean-sheet engine design, whose primary components (including the centrifugal compressor and combustion chamber) are currently being designed. New technologies could be employed in the program, such as 3D printing.
There will be two versions of the powerplant, with the forward- and aftmounted power offtake shaft, so that it could be used both on Mil and Kamov helicopters. If this work is completed successfully, and the engine demonstrates good technical performance and efficiency characteristics, it could be used to re-engine virtually the entire Russian helicopter fleet.