Александр Михеев Mi-17-1V – reliable aid in tackling various tasks

Over many decades Russia has been firmly keeping the leading world positions in helicopter building, offering to potential buyers the most modern, reliable in operation and comparatively inexpensive rotor-driven vehicles.

The pride of the Russian helicopter industry and its export “face” are the helicopters of the Mi family developed by the designers of the Moscow Helicopter Plant named after M.L. Mil and representing in the world market practically the whole range of helicopter materiel. The main supplier of the Mi-17 helicopters and the exclusive supplier of its military versions is Rosoboronexport State Corporation.

Presently there is high demand among foreign customers for the Mi-17-1V military-transport helicopter produced by the Kazan Helicopter Plant. Its prototype, the Mi-8 helicopter, has been in operation since early 60-ies. More than 8000 units of it have been manufactured. It has been supplied to 50 countries of the world and over many years has been employed in combat conditions. According to the statistics available, the incident rate of the Mi-8 helicopters operating abroad is considerably less, than that of its analogues from other countries.

The Mi-17-1V — a highly maneuverable and easy-to-control vehicle – is already accomplishing successfully combat missions in the armed forces of Russia, Egypt, India, Turkey, Malaysia, Colombia and other countries. According to the Colombian military, the helicopter has enhanced significantly the mobility of forces and has shown excellent performance in high-altitude conditions. As an example of effective use of the helicopter, it is possible to cite the capture at the end of April 2002 of one of the world’s biggest drug traffickers, a certain Brazilian Louis Fernando da Kosta and his accomplices by commandos of the Colombian Army in a hard-to-access area of the tropical forests.

It should be noted, that the Mi-17-1V design has been perfected so thoroughly, that the performance and reliability requirements submitted to it are several times higher, than the world average ones.

It might be interesting to compare the performance characteristics of the Mi-17-1V with its best Western analogues – the US helicopters UH-60A “Black Hawk” and European “Cougar” based on the French helicopter AS-332L “Super Puma”.

By takeoff mass the advantage is with the Russian helicopter – up to 13 tons maximum, while the US helicopter has slightly more than 9 and the European one – 8.6. Accordingly, the load-carrying capacity of the US helicopter is almost one third less, than that of the Mi-17-1V, and by external load the Russian vehicle surpasses the US helicopter by one and a half ton, the European one – by more than half a ton. Slight advantage of the “Black Hawk” helicopter in speed – 268 km/hour (“Cougar” – 260, Mi-17-1V – 250) does not offset this shortcoming.

The Russian helicopter has the biggest volume of the cargo compartment as well. The same indicator of the US vehicle is twice less. The transport capabilities of the “Cougar” helicopter are also limited by a considerably smaller size of its cargo compartment.

When transporting commandos, the Russian helicopter Mi-17-1V takes more than 30 persons on board – 2.5 times more than the European helicopter and twice as more than the US one.

This advantage increases significantly in high-altitude conditions. The hovering ceiling for the Russian rotor-driven vehicle is 4 thousand meters, the US one – 3.2., the European one – 2.1. Naturally, the highest service ceiling is also of the Russian helicopter – 6 thousand meters.

Nowadays the comprehensive modernization (development) programme for the helicopter, including the following areas, is being implemented successfully:

  • improvement of operation and performance characteristics;
  • modernization for twenty-four-hour employment;
  • modernization of high-precision weapon control system.

The modernized Mi-17-1V, equipped with hydraulic ramp and sliding doors on both sides of the fuselage, showed the best results during the tests for loading and unloading time of commandos and cargoes.

The Mi-17-1V helicopter is manufactured in five versions: transport, military-transport with armaments, passenger (for 24 seats), VIP and flying hospital equipped for performance of medical operations. In the first two versions the helicopter is capable to carry cargoes inside the fuselage and as external store, to extinguish fires (capacity of water-discharge device is up to 5000 litres), to transport the wounded (12 stretches with accompanying persons and the required medical equipment), to land on water by means of special ballonets, to perform search and rescue operations.

In the military-transport version the helicopter has rocket, small-arms, gun and bombing armaments, which are attached to trusses with racks. The rocket armaments are capable to hit area and group targets, including light-armoured and concrete ones. The launching devices are 4 rocket pods, each loaded with airborne unguided rockets, 20 rockets in each pod. The small-arms and gun armaments are designed to hit ground and air targets. It is possible to mount 4 gun containers with 23-mm guns. The system of bombing armaments provides precision bombing with air bombs weighing 50-500 kg.

To defend the front and rear hemispheres of the helicopter machine guns are mounted, which have independent electric supply circuits and remote fire control. The protection against missiles with heat-seeking heads is provided by installation of active and passive interference setting systems. The Mi-17-1V helicopter is equipped with armour plates protecting the crew against machine-gun and small-arms fire. They also cover the floor, the front bottom hemisphere and the rear part of the crew compartment.

Two turboshaft engines are fitted on the helicopter, of necessity it can continue the flight on one engine of 2200 h.p. working with augmented thrust. To increase the flight range it is possible to install from two to four extra fuel tanks in the cargo compartment. The set of modern radio, flight and navigation equipment and autopilot enable to fly in any meteorological conditions and in any time of the day and night. The helicopter can be outfitted with short-range and long-range navigation equipment providing operation with VOL/ILS, DME, as well as OMEQA and LORAN systems. Special weather radar detects convective formations (thunderstorm, powerful cumulus clouds) and determine flight risk rate.

Of late, not only the external configuration of the helicopter has changed, the Mi-17-1V has started to be completed with avionics of such Western firms as HONEWELL, MARCONI, SEXTANT, AVIONIQUE and others, that provides matching of technical parameters with NATO standards. The incorporation of this equipment into the single integrated flight and navigation system, the employment of infra-red imaging and TV systems, as well as the possibility to use night vision devices put the Mi-17-1V helicopter among the most advanced world specimens of air materiel.

The experience of using the Mi-17-1V helicopters shows, that the Russian supplier is capable to provide operation of his helicopters and logistics in accordance with the requirements adopted in world practice.

When supplying the Mi-17-1V helicopters the Russian Side offers to its foreign partners serious offset programmes providing creation of new jobs in local industry. At the same time it is possible to discuss the issues pertaining to the organization of consignment warehouses for accumulation and storage of the required number of spare parts. Rosoboronexport State Corporation provides also after-sale support for the supplied materiel, including: guarantee servicing, supply of spare parts during the whole life cycle of the helicopter, overhaul of units, training and retraining of flight and ground personnel, transfer of all necessary technical documentation, including service bulletins.

Of no less importance is also the fact, that the cost of the Russian helicopter is lower than the cost of its analogues from other competitor countries.