AMMAN, Jordan — Dwarfing its neighbor, a U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey at SOFEX, is the Rostvertol-manufactured Mil Mi-26T2 Halo cargo helicopter.
Jordan has ordered four of the behemoth aircraft that each stand at 11.6 meters high and 40 meters long, and unlike the Boeing-made CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters, it uses a single, massive eight-blade rotor system as well as a smaller tail rotor.
The helicopter holds the record of being the largest in the world and was first developed to respond to containment work after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
An example in scaling up, the aircraft can carry 20 tons in its hull and 20 tons sling-loaded beneath. Its maximum takeoff weight is 56 tons. It can carry 82 troops, which is roughly the size of a military company.
That equates to roughly three elephants, which matters because the helicopter has actually been used to transport an ancient cousin out of Siberia, a 23,000-year-old woolly mammoth encased in frozen soil.
Its maximum speed is 295 kilometers per hour.
Jordan has already taken delivery of the first helicopter in January 2018 and displayed it as the show-stopping centerpiece at SOFEX.
And it’s already been put through the paces, its two pilots told Defense News. They went through training in eight months, beginning in September and finishing in April. The pilots spoke on condition of anonymity.
The country plans to use the aircraft for firefighting missions, and the helicopter has the capability to carry 15 tons of water.
The Halo went through a successful training exercise two weeks ago, the pilots said, where it proved very effective.
The pilots were particularly excited about the helicopter’s glass cockpit and its autopilot and auto-hover features.
The helicopter is designed to be flown by just two pilots and eliminates the need for a larger aircrew, although an additional crew member is needed when loads are slung under the aircraft.
Other military users of the Mi-26 are Algeria, which has 14, Belarus, Cambodia, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, India, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mexico, North Korea, Peru, Russia, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.