Russian Helicopters goes into high gear


Russian Helicopters has launched an ambitious programme for a high speed helicopter to replace the aging Mi-8/17. Meanwhile, the company recorded very good financial results and shows an impressive order book which could lead to a fairly aggressive development strategy in the coming years.

In early 2013, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade announced a tender for an R&D documentation project to create an advanced high-speed helicopter. Russian Helicopters, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry & Trade and the Defence Ministry, started to work on this research and development programme dedicated to creation of this helicopter late last year. Tender specifications featured the following aspects:
• Increase of helicopter speed by about 25% in comparison to existing technologies with a cruising speed that should be around 340-360 kilometres per hour

Maximal takeoff weight of up to 10.6 tons,
• Capacity for 21 people,
• Practical flight range of 900 kilometres,
• 20-25% lower operating costs.

Russian Helicopters, which aims at developing the conceptual design by the end of 2015, has put into competition Mil and Kamov to find the best design. Finally, the company came to the conclusion that the Mil design bureau was the most logical candidate given the economical and technical savings they can make on the basis of the experience acquired with the Mi-8, which is in about the same weight class.

Klimov will be in charge of the new generation engine. As the Russian Defence Industry Digest reports, Executive Director of Klimov Company, Alexander Vatagin declared that “In accordance with plans of 2014 we will continue working out of key elements and systems of the advanced engine to produce and to test the demonstrator engine in 2015 and to start certification work.”

According to ITAR-TASS, the research and development phase should be completed no later than 2016, and certification testing could begin as early as 2018-2020.

According to Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of the defence sector, military or civil applications are not defined yet. “Work on the project is already under way. The task is to develop up-to-date engines, higher-powered and with a higher efficiency. There will be novel design and engineering solutions that will enable the air vehicle to move faster and be more manoeuvrable. This is a prospective task….Armament is another matter. There must be a concept, a conceptual design, and solutions that may be adopted as the basis for developing the helicopter. Later on, the military will formulate a way of application,” Rogozin told the Izvestia newspaper.

Clearly, speed appears as the primary competitive advantage of this aircraft. As Izvestia notes, foreign manufacturers are also attempting to develop high-speed helicopters. Thus, “researchers at the Eurocopter Company are busy developing a helicopter with a cruising speed of 410 km/h. American helicopter producers Sikorsky and Boeing are preparing a helicopter with a speed of 400 km/h”.

Regarding its financial results, Russian Helicopters, subsidiary of Oboronprom, which is itself part of the State Corporation Rostec, in 2013 recorded an anticipated consolidated turnover of about €3bn ($4.6bn). However, the company adds that its exact 2013 financials, certified under Russian Accounting Standards, will only be available in its 2013 Annual Report.
“In 2013 Russian Helicopters continued to develop as a modern, highly efficient and dynamic Russian company […] We completed the state defence order in full, supplied combat helicopters to export [countries] and produced dozens of batches of safe, reliable commercial helicopters for Russian and international customers” declared in a press release Russian Helicopters CEO Alexander Mikheev.

The portfolio of confirmed orders, as of 11 December 2013, stood at 772 helicopters worth over €7.7 billion. Russian Helicopters’ order book is 100% full for 2014, 73% full for 2015 and 25% full for 2016.

For the future, Russian Helicopters’ priorities will be to reduce the time to bring the new multi-role Ka-62, Mi-38, and Mi-171A2 helicopters to market, but also motivate partnerships with foreign companies: •a JV with AgustaWestland to create a new light helicopter, and an agreement with Turbomeca to open service centres to support the commissioning of the Ka-226T and Ka-62, equipped with French engines.

Last but not least, Russian Helicopters’ strategy is to carry on the development of a global system for after-sales services, in order to perform “full life-cycle” helicopter sales.