The Mil design bureau is hopeful that Russian defence ministry orders for Mi-8 Hip and Mi-24 Hind helicopter upgrades will push revenues this year above the 1 billion rouble ($32million) achieved in 2001. The company operated under bankruptcy protection in 1998-2000.

Also known as MVZ, the Mil Moscow helicopter plant "cleared most debts in the first half of last year and has been functioning normally since April last year", says general designer Aleksei Samusenko. "The state order provides strong fundamentals - it is something we lacked in the previous 10 years," he adds.

The Russian defence ministry order in 2000 covers incremental block upgrades of Mi-8s and Mi-24s to extend service lives to 35 years.

Five blocks are in development and it will be possible to implement each independently, without the need to incorporate other modifications. This allows flexibility, step-by-step upgrades of the ageing fleet and optimum use of available financing, says Samusenko.

"We use technologies and hardware developed for the Mi-28, with focus on extended lifetime and the performance of navigation and targeting systems," he adds.

The upgraded machines will have improved day and night-operating capabilities and the Mi-24 combat helicopter will have the option of a "built-in cargo system" that includes a sling for external loads. Another option is the use of the Mi-28's dynamic system.

The simplest option is a new weapons system, while the next step is a navigation system enabling night operations. It includes the Urals Optic Mechanical Plant gyro-stabilised sensor platform and night vision goggles. "We tried this on a Mi-8 upgraded in 1998 that underwent testing in Chechnya," says Samusenko.

Russia's arms export agency Rosoboronexport has also aided Mil's turnaround by making Kazan Helicopters and the UUAZ factory in Ulan-Ude, both building Mi-8/17s, and Rostov-based Rostvertol, producing the Mi-24/35, Mi-26 and Mi-28, pay royalty payments on exports to the design bureau.

Rostvertol has just delivered 12 new-build Mi-24VK-2s to Cyprus and Samusenko says "a large contract" for Mi-17s is being finalised with a country in South-East Asia.

Source: Flight International