Fifth Generation Helicopter

Andrey Shibitov

In a 13 May news conference, OAO Helicopters of Russia Executive Director Andrey Shibitov described the company’s work on a concept for a fifth generation helicopter.  His comments to the press came in advance of HeliRussia-2010 beginning today in Moscow. 

Shibitov said:

“We are actively working on the concept of a fifth generation combat helicopter.  Wind tunnel testing of two aerodynamic designs coaxial [Kamov] and traditional [Mil] has begun.  Initial results have been received.  Which of the two designs we’ll pick will become clear in the first quarter of 2011.”

According to Gzt.ru, Shibitov claimed OAO Helicopters is willing to invest $1 billion in its development, and is looking for state investment beyond that amount.

Neither OAO Helicopters nor the Defense Ministry is talking specifics about the new helicopter, but former VVS CINC Aleksandr Kornukov stated the obvious when he told Gzt.ru a fifth generation helicopter needs to be quiet and stealthy.  According to Newsru.com, Kornukov also stated a preference for two pilots in a side-by-side configuration.

In Gzt.ru, former army aviation commander, retired General-Colonel Vitaliy Pavlov said noise isn’t so significant since Mil’s X-shaped tail rotor already reduced noise on the Mi-28 by 15 percent (in comparison with its Mi-24 predecessor), but he added that reworking the engine could further reduce noise.  Pavlov doesn’t see great importance in increasing flight speed.  He sees the coaxial Kamov design as more reliable, but Mil’s traditional rotor system as more stable.  He also likes the maneuverability of Kamov’s helicopters, but he still thinks it’ll be a difficult choice between the two producers.

Also in Gzt.ru, Defense Ministry critic, retired General-Colonel Leonid Ivashov said the fifth generation helicopter could be stillborn:

“If there isn’t a state order for this aircraft, it will wither.  We’re grasping at all fifth generation aircraft, fifth generation helicopters, but for some reason none of this is coming to the troops, today we have helicopters from the 1970s in the army.  So the country’s leadership shouldn’t just rejoice at new equipment in various air shows, but also buy it for the troops.”

Then Ivashov’s deputy at the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, takes over, citing his definition of a fifth generation helicopter—increased range, ‘fire and forget’ weapons, capability to engage fixed-wing aircraft, low radar detectability, and speed up to 500-600 km/h.  Sivkov sees noise reduction as secondary since radar can detect helicopters at a 150-200 km range.

Sivkov thinks, under favorable conditions—steady financing, cooperative work by the design bureaus and factories—a new helicopter could be developed in 5 years, but, absent those conditions, development could take 20 or 30 years.

Dmitriy Litovkin in Izvestiya covers a lot of the same information on the pre-design research and wind tunnel blowdown of the prototypes.  He says the so-called Ka-90’s ‘dual-contour’ jet engine could develop speeds over 800 km/h, and he cites a system development timeframe of 5-8 years.  According to him, work is focusing on canted blades with thrust vectoring as well as a new blade design.

He believes one of the designs will win out, but there could be a third hybrid design.  But he thinks there’s little time to waste since the U.S. is already testing new designs, albeit unsuccessfully thus far. 

Writing in Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, Viktor Litovkin notes three named prototypes–Mi-X1, Ka-90, and Ka-92. 

Shibitov also talked to the press about OAO Helicopters’ record state defense order from army aviation in 2010.  He said:

“A year ago I said it was a shame the Defense Minister wasn’t buying new helicopters.  Beginning this year, I can’t say this.  Finally conscious, sensible purchases of military equipment have begun.”

“We got a record order from the Defense Ministry for purchases of combat, strike, and reconnaissance helicopters in the basic and supplementary order.  Unfortunately, we can’t fulfill the supplementary order because other commercial projects are being completed.”

“From this year, we’re delivering volume for the Defense Ministry comparable with all export deliveries of combat and strike helicopters.  In the course of the coming five years this tempo will continue, and in the period to 2017-2020 the Russian Air Forces will renew its complement of combat, strike, and reconnaissance helicopters by 85-90 percent.”

Aviaport.ru indicated the armed forces will also receive their first Mi-35D, Mi-24D, and Ka-226T helicopters, previously produced only for foreign customers.  OAO Helicopters is reportedly looking at modernizing Ka-29 or Ka-32 helicopters for Mistral, but Ka-52 is another candidate for shipboard helicopter.

CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko puts the armed forces helicopter inventory at 850, of which 90 percent is obsolete.  He estimates it’ll cost $8 billion to renew this force.

There is evidence of life in Russian military helicopter procurement.  Talking about the GOZ, President Medvedev said 30 would be bought this year, and Defense Minister Serdyukov claimed the army got 41 during 2009.  In late 2008, VVS CINC Zelin said the plan was to obtain 100 new helicopters over 4 years, so these numbers would be in that range.

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