Procurement: Take My New Helicopter, Please


March 18, 2009: Russia has had a hard time finding customers for its new helicopter designs. This is largely because Russia has been so successful in selling the old (updated 1960s design), but reliable, Mi-171. But now they have found a way to fund the new Mi-38 (basically the successor of the Mi-8/17/171 line). There is a demand inside Russia for a large, rugged, helicopter to support the growing number of oil and gas development projects in Russia's vast eastern forests. The Mi-38 was developed in the last decade for military use, but seems ideal for the oil industry needs. The Mi-38 is a 15 ton helicopter that can carry up to six tons and can stay in the air for up to six hours per sortie (cruising at 200 kilometers an hour). Russia can make money selling these for less than $10 million each.

The popular Mi-171 is based on the 1975 era Mi-17, which is the export version of original 1960s 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 (about 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. The helicopter is rugged, inexpensive ($4-5 million each) and better suited for less affluent nations.

Development of the Mi-38 was completed in 1998 and Russia has been pushing sales hard. There are apparently enough Mi-38 orders to get production started by the end of the year. The Mi-38 is much easier to sell if it is in production, and has some satisfied users.



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