Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

TWO RUSSIAN-BUILT helicopters have unexpectedly emerged as competitors for Canada's pending search-and-rescue (SAR) and maritime-patrol helicopter requirements.

Kelowna Flightcraft plans to offer the Mil Mi-17 for the 15-aircraft Canadian SAR Helicopter (CSH) programme, while MacDonald Dettwiler is studying the Kamov Ka-32's suitability for the 32-aircraft Maritime Helicopter Programme (MHP). Both are based in British Columbia.

Kelowna has an agreement with Mil and Mi-17 manufacturer Kazan Helicopters to upgrade the aircraft with Western avionics and electrics, and to study the feasibility of Western certification of the upgrade, the Mi-17KF, says engineering manager Michael Sizeland.

The company expects to receive a demonstrator in November for a six-month modification programme to install Honeywell avionics, including a four-tube electronic flight-instrument system, flight director, radios, radar, and attitude- and heading-reference system.

MacDonald Dettwiler says that it has been discussing the capabilities of the Ka-32 with Kamov and the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND). The company believes that the aircraft, the commercial version of the Russian navy's Ka-27 maritime helicopter, is a viable contender for the MHP requirement, when equipped with Western systems.

A Canadian prime contractor would be required to offer the Ka-32, says business-development manager Murray MacDonald, adding that discussions are under way. MacDonald Dettwiler is interested in the role of system integrator and is acting as an "honest broker" between Kamov and Canadian industry, he says.

MacDonald says that the DND has said that it has no policy against buying a Russian helicopter, but has concerns over long-term support. Canada also requires a commercially certificated aircraft for the CSH and MPH requirements. Efforts are under way to certificate the Ka-32 in the West, he says.

Kelowna and MacDonald Dettwiler highlight the cost advantages of buying Russian. Sizeland says that the Mi-17KF will be less than half the cost of its nearest competitor, while MacDonald says that the low cost of the Ka-32 would allow the DND to afford the full mission suite sought for the MHP.

MacDonald also notes that Pratt & Whitney Canada has a joint-venture with Klimov, Russian manufacturer of the engines used in the Mi-17 and Ka-32.

Source: Flight International