Moscow show highlights high-speed helicopters

Moscow
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Russia is pushing to keep pace with the USA and Europe in high-speed rotorcraft technology development, with the Kamov and Mil design houses unveiling new concepts at last month's HeliRussia2008 show.

The move is in response to a call by Oboronprom and Helicopter Holding, the Kremlin-controlled groupings that control Russia's largest helicopter companies. According to Helicopter Holding boss Andrei Shibitov, his organisation will spend Rb15 billion ($636 million) on new technologies, more than half of which is direct governmental funding, to help Mil and Kamov get experimental rotorcraft flying in the next three to five years.

"The main purpose of the programme is to ensure that Russia will keep pace with the USA and Europe in technologies of high-speed rotorcraft," Shibitov says. At this time creation of a deliverable product is not on the agenda, he adds.

Mil showed its Mi-X1 concept, revealed in December last year, as well as a pilotless version known as MRVK - the Russian acronym for multirole robotic helicopter complex. Mil general designer Aleksei Samusenko says the Mi-X1 is intended for cruise speeds of 245-270kt (450-500km/h), made possible by an innovative main rotor design with computer control.

Kamov exhibited desk models of the Ka-90 and Ka-92. Kamov general designer Sergei Mikheyev says the Ka-90 project was first studied in 1985, but shelved after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is back under consideration, and the Ka-92 is a much more recent concept, he says. He describes the Ka-90 concept as one that combines a "helicopter at take-off and landing and airplane in cruise flight", while the Ka-92 is essentially a high-speed helicopter.

According to Mikheyev, both concepts reflect Kamov's vision of future high-speed rotorcraft: "For over 40 years the helicopter makers of the world have been using essentially the same principles of helicopter aerodynamics and control systems. The time has come to look for new solutions to vertical take-off and landing aircraft, centring on improving the aerodynamic perfection of the helicopter as a flying vehicle."