MOSCOW — Russia's helicopter industry, shepherded by Russian Helicopters — last year the world's largest helicopter exporter — has its eyes set on competing in the emerging market of high-speed helicopters.
Last year, Yury Slyuzar, Russia's Russian former deputy industry and trade minister, Yury Slyuzar announced that Russian Helicopters would be leading the design of a new high-speed helicopter. Though details remain scant, a concept for the vehicle is expected to be unveiled sometime this year, according Russian aviation publication ATO.ru.
In May, of last year, ATO.ru quoted Russian Helicopters chief Alexander Mikheyev as saying that "the [target maximum] speed has not been defined yet," but that the helicopter should cruise at more than over 400 kilometers an hour (249 miles per hour).
Russian Helicopters is currently pitching the project as an ideal VIP transport, though military applications are also being considered. The vehicle is expected to be certified by 2020 and its development is expected to cost about 7.5 billion rubles (US $121.5 million).
Russian Helicopters did not respond to a request to clarify the current status of the development project, but Russian aviation analyst Oleg Panteleyev told Defense News that "work is currently continuing on the development of a flying laboratory [demonstrator]," adding that the ultimate goal is to develop a set of technologies that will ensure parity, if not superiority over competition.
Right now, the competition seems to be Sikorsky, which last year unveiled itstheir S-97 Raider helicopter, which can cruise at speeds of 254 miles per hour.
"At the same time, the work to formulate a specific product for the market has not begun," Panteleyev said. "Helicopter operators have no real interest in high-speed machines … high speed still comes with a high price."
Nonetheless, Russian Helicopters has said a prototype will be ready to fly by 2020, and will be built on a Mil Mi-24 test bed. According to official company literature on the program, the first stage of the development program will focus on attaining cruising speeds of 217 miles per hour.
Beyond high-profile development projects, much of Russia's efforts in the field of helicopter technology is focused on shoring up the production base, substituting imports of valuable components built beyond Russia's borders in the former Soviet Union, and modernizing tried-and-true Soviet designs for the Russian military and for export customers.