August 11, 2012: Sri Lanka has ordered another 14 Russian Mi-171 helicopters, to add to the 32 it has bought in the past. About 18 of these are still in service. Sri Lanka has been using several versions of the Mi-17 since the early 1990s. The Mi-171 is basically an inexpensive transport helicopter. But it can easily be modified to carry weapons or any other specialized gear. Sri Lanka did arm many of its Mi-17s, at least part of the time. Some Mi-171 users are equipping them with radars and other sensors, to be used for reconnaissance and surveillance. But Sri Lanka is at peace, since ending over a decade of civil war three years ago. Thus the air force plans using some of the new Mi-171s for supporting tourism, as well as military training.
The Mi-171 is based on the 1970s era Mi-17, which is the export version of similar Mi-8. Weighing about 12 tons, and carrying a four ton load, the Mi-171 has a range of 590 kilometers at a cruising speed of 250 kilometers per hour. There is a crew of three and as many passengers as can be squeezed in (up to 40 people but usually just 20 or so). A sling underneath can also carry up to four tons.
Several hundred Mi-171s have been exported from Russia. The helicopter is rugged, inexpensive ($4-5 million each), and better suited for less affluent nations. Development of this model was completed in 1998 and Russia has been pushing sales hard.