Russia Looks To Recharge Helicopter Industry

By Tony Osborne
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Although trumped by the Apache to meet India's attack helicopter requirement, the aircraft already has its first export customer. Reports from Russia suggest that Iraq will be the Mi-28's next customer, with an order for 10 linked to a $4.3 billion arms transfer agreement signed in 2012. Reports that the type in service with the armed forces of Kenya have been denied by the manufacturer.

A conventional design, the aircraft uses the tandem seating arrangement used by Western attack helicopters, with targeting sensors arrayed around the nose. So far the Russian air force has ordered around 100 examples of the Mi-28N, which are being flown in a basic configuration. Eventually the aircraft are expected to receive mast-mounted radar, similar in capability to the Longbow radar fitted to the Apache, although no production aircraft are fitted with this system yet. A training version, dubbed the Mi-28UB recently made its first flight and will debut at the MAKS 2013 air show.

With exports of the Mi-28 underway, Russian Helicopters is keen to achieve similar success for the co-axial Ka-52, using the Paris air show to demonstrate the type's capabilities during its Western debut. Sergei Mikheev, chief designer at the Kamov Design Bureau said the company was willing to integrate Western weaponry. The aircraft was displayed with MBDA-made weapons including the PARS 3LR, which has been down-selected as a possible weapon for Indian attack helicopters. Typical armament for the land-based aircraft includes the Russian-made 9K121 Vikhr and 9M120 Ataka-V anti-tank missiles, the Igla-S air-to-air missile and a 30-mm cannon.

Mikheev says he is confident about export opportunities for the rotorcraft in India despite the fact that the country has already selected the AH-64. A naval version of the Ka-52—the Ka-52K—is also being produced in preparation for Russia's purchase of the French-designed Mistral helicopter carrier. These aircraft will be given anti-corrosion treatments and a folding main rotor head to prepare for a life at sea. The Ka-52K will also carry a different suite of weapons, although Mikheev would not say which weapons. It is also unclear when the first Ka-52K would fly, although at Paris Mikheev said the aircraft would be ready for the arrival of the first Mistral, expected in 2014. The type will be embarked alongside the Kamov Ka-27 and Ka-29 naval and utility co-axial helicopter types.

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