Procurement: Helicopters Bring Russia And China Together

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November 23, 2010: Chinese and Russian helicopter manufacturers have established a joint venture that will perform maintenance and refurbishment on helicopters, especially those of Russian design. This is part of a larger plan. For example, earlier this year, a factory in China began shipping Mi-171 helicopters. These are not illegal copies, but the result of another Russian-Chinese joint venture to produce Mi-171s, and other models.

The M-171 is basically an inexpensive transport helicopter. But it can easily be modified to carry weapons. This model is nicknamed "The Terminator. " The basic Mi-171 is based on the 1975 era Mi-17, which is the export version of similar Mi-8. Weighing about 12 tons, and carrying a four ton load, the Mi-171 has a range of 590 kilometers at a cruising speed of 250 kilometers per hour. There is a crew of three, and as many passengers as can be squeezed in (about 40 people, but usually just 20 or so.) A sling underneath can also carry up to four tons.

Several hundred Mi-171s have been exported from Russia. The helicopter is rugged, inexpensive ($4-5 million each) and better suited for less affluent nations. Development of this model was completed in 1998 and Russia has been pushing sales hard.

Two years ago, Russia and China signed an agreement, in which China promised to stop stealing Russian military technology. It appears that the main function of the new "military technical cooperation" agreement was to stop China from exporting their copies of Russian equipment, and competing with the Russian originals. This agreement immediately led to some interesting proposals regarding helicopters. Russia agreed to sell China six Helix anti-submarine helicopters, with the possibility of joint manufacture. Meanwhile, the Mi-171 deal moved ahead quickly.

There was also a proposal for China and Russia to jointly develop a large transport helicopter, based on the existing Mi-26T (a 20 ton aircraft that can carry 80 passengers). There may be other joint development deals to produce updated versions of existing Russian helicopter designs. This sort of thing could be mutually beneficial, and China now has a domestic source for inexpensive transport helicopters, which it's civilian and military markets are demanding many of.

 

 


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