Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Russia Building New Military Chopper Muscle


Helicopter orders from the Russian military are up and commitments for new types are on the horizon, marking a stark turnaround from the days when military orders were unable to sustain Russia’s domestic manufacturing industry.
Now, helicopter manufacturer Rostvertol’s export orders are balanced with growing procurement from the Russian air force, with long-term growth on the horizon. In addition to continued production of Mi-28s at the Rostov-on-Don production site, the military plans to launch a modernized Mi-28NM by 2015, Rostvertol CEO Boris Slyusar tells Aviation Week.
Rostvertol has resumed production of Mi-26 heavy transports for the air force. The first three aircraft already are in the final stages of completion. According to Slyusar, the procurement will last until 2015. For now the military has ordered the basic Mi-26T version, but the company hopes to entice the customer into acquiring the modernized Mi-26T2.
The Mi-26T2 was developed to take part in the Indian defense ministry’s competition for 15 heavy-lift rotorcraft. It features a new glass cockpit and avionics suite designed to increase commonality with the Mi-28.
Rostvertol officials say an Indian evaluation team visited the facility last week to test the first Mi-26T2 prototype now in factory flight trials. The manufacturer also plans to offer the new modifications to civil operators and hopes to complete all necessary testing within two years.
The Mi-28NM is part of larger air force modernization wave. Lt. Gen. Igor Sadofyev, air force deputy commander, tells RIA Novosti that the military expects to receive about 100 new helicopters this year, including Mil Mi-28 and Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters as well as Mi-8 transports and Ansat light training rotorcraft. But this list is likely to grow before all is said and done.
This month, Rostvertol showed off the first batch of Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters being assembled for the Russian air force. The six rotorcraft are in final assembly, while the first of them is already conducting onboard system checks. First deliveries are still planned for this year, Slyusar says.
The order for 22 Mi-35Ms was placed by the Russian military in June 2010. These helicopters will supplement ongoing deliveries of Mi-28Ns, chosen earlier by the military as the main rotorcraft for battlefield fire support.
The Mi-35M is a further development of the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter and was initially designed exclusively for export. The main advantage of the Mi-35M is that it incorporates the latest technologies of the Mi-28N, such as the more powerful VK-2500 turboshaft engine, and composite main rotor blades as well as an X-shaped tail rotor.
The Mi-35M already has had some export successes. In 2006-2008, 10 rotorcraft were delivered to Venezuela, while in 2009-2010 Brazil received the first six of 12 aircraft ordered. Rostvertol already has assembled three more Mi-35Ms for Brazil, but their delivery is in limbo owing to the country’s defense budget cuts.
According to Russian Helicopters, Rostvertol revenues totaled $500 million in 2010. Slyusar would not disclose the number of helicopters delivered last year, but noted the growth amounted to 30% compared to 2009 results. He says his facility plans to reach annual revenues of $1 billion by 2015.
On April 12, Russian Helicopters announced plans to raise $500 million from an initial public offering to be conducted in Moscow and London. The funds raised will pay down debt and buy out minority interests in the company’s subsidiaries.
Russian Helicopters was set up in 2007 and now controls all Russian helicopter manufacturers. In 2010 the holding delivered 214 helicopters, 31 more than in 2009, while its revenue amounted to $2.2 billion, a 42% increase from the previous year.