Russian Helicopters has completed the first serial production example of its modernised Mil Mi-171A2 at the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant, with three more of the 13t rotorcraft in final assembly.

The initial batch of four helicopters will be transferred to the launch customer before year-end, says the manufacturer.

It has yet to gain certification for the latest version of the long-running Mi-8/-17 line, but flight tests using two prototypes are continuing and the milestone is expected in August, the company has indicated.

Although retaining its familiar shape, the fuselage of the Mi-171A2 has been streamlined, and coupled with high-power Klimov VK2500PS engines – each rated at 2,400shp (1,790kW) – an improved transmission, and new composite main rotor blades, maximum speed is increased to 150kt (280km/h). Additionally, its external payload rises to 5t.

Additional upgrades over its forerunners included a new digital avionics suite from Russia’s Kret and a new X-shaped tail rotor.

No indication has been given on the identity of the launch customer, but Russian resources giant Gazprom in May this year signed a letter of intent committing it to acquire an undisclosed number of the type in an offshore configuration.

Other orders for the type are unclear, but both Sberbank Leasing and operator UTair have been promoting the helicopter as part of agreements signed in May.