Russian Helicopters and China’s state aircraft manufacturer AVIC have entered a framework agreement to develop a heavy lift helicopter.

Russian Helicopters’ chief executive Alexander Mikheev and AVIC chairman Lin Zuoming signed the deal during a visit to Moscow by Chinese president Xi Jinping, who was present at the ceremony along with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“The manufacture in China of a heavy-lift helicopter developed jointly by the two countries has been an important component of Russian-Chinese collaboration in the aviation industry, and today's signing ceremony marks the start of practical work on the project,” says Russian Helicopters in a statement.

“Under the agreement the parties will work on all areas of development and preparation to launch serial production of the new aircraft, named the Advanced Heavy Lift (AHL).”

The AHL will have a takeoff weight of 38-tonnes, and be able to carry 10-tonnes internally and 15-tonnes on an external sling. It will be able to operate in all weather and terrain conditions. Key missions include transportation, medical evacuation, and firefighting.”

By comparison, the Mil Mi-26, the world’s largest helicopter, can carry a payload of over 20-tonnes.

Russian Helicopters and AVIC foresee a potential market for 200 units, mainly in China. Preliminary technical specifications have been laid down, and the two companies will sign a contract later in 2015.