Russian Helicopters and AVIC to collaborate on new heavy-lift helicopter

Russia's gearbox and production expertise to complement China's composites and aerodynamics strength for rotorcraft estimated to exceed 200 units by year 2040.

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Russian Helicopters (part of State Corporation Rostec, Moscow) and Aviation Industries Corp. of China (AVIC, Tianjin) have signed an agreement to work together on all areas of development and preparation to launch serial production of a new helicopter, named the Advanced Heavy Lift (AHL). The May 8, 2015 signing ceremony marks the start of practical work on the project.

"China is one of the fastest-growing helicopter markets worldwide, and we are interested in establishing long-term multilateral strategic relations with China so that both sides benefit from working together on helicopter-building projects," said Russian Helicopters CEO Alexander Mikheev.

"Russian Helicopters is uniquely well-qualified when it comes to building heavy-lift helicopters," Chairman of the Board of Directors of AVIC Lin Zuoming said. "The legendary Mi-26 type helicopters, for example, have no equals, and the Mi-26TS played an important role in the aftermath of earthquakes in Sichuan province in 2008 and 2013. I believe that working together with Russian Helicopters to create an advanced heavy-lift helicopter will prove to be a productive project and one that will have a positive influence on the development of China's helicopter industry."

Planned to have a take-off weight of 38 tons and a payload of 10 tons inside the cabin or 15 tons on an external sling, experts estimate that Chinese demand for the AHL could exceed 200 aircraft by 2040. The helicopter will be designed to operate round-the-clock in hot climates, mountainous terrain and all weather conditions, and also to fly a highly varied range of missions including transportation, medevac, disaster relief, emergency response and firefighting.

According to ChinaDaily.com, Russia has been eager to upgrade its heavy-lift helicopters such as the Mi-26, but it lacks sufficient funds, while China is catching up rapidly in the helicopter sector as the government is pouring investment and resources into aviation. Huang Chuanyue, deputy chief engineer at Avicopter, AVIC's helicopter division, said that China and Russia can complement each other in heavy-lift helicopter technologies: “Russia has rich experience in design and manufacturing, while Chinese engineers are better than their Russian peers when it comes to composite materials and aerodynamics."

Russian Helicopters and AVIC have drawn up the preliminary technical specifications for the AHL and agreed on the plan for finalization, collaboration methods and each side’s program responsibilities.

Russian Helicopters (part of State Corporation Rostec) was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Moscow. The company comprises five helicopter production facilities, two design bureaus, a spare parts production and repair facility and an aftersale service branch responsible for maintenance and repair worldwide.