Putin visit ignites demand for Russian helos in Mideast
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent Middle East tour triggered the signing of a $25 million contract to supply six Kamov Ka-226 light helicopters to Jordan over the next two years. The deal is a breakthrough for Russian helicopter manufacturers as Jordan previously bought only Western-built rotorcraft.
The agreement calls for partial assembly in that country of supplied component kits. The work will be completed at the Russian-Jordanian Oboronprom Middle East helicopter assembly facility, created in March 2006 by Russia’s Oboronprom state corporation and Jordan’s Orangeville Consultants.
In recent years, Russia has been trying to boost its helicopter exports to both the Middle East and North Africa. Its best prospects seem to be Mil’s Mi-8AMTSh/Mi-171Sh military transport helicopters, which the Ulan-Ude aviation plant (Stands E934/E734) manufactures partly through fleet replacement of early Mi-8s and Mi-17s.
Ulan-Ude has already supplied a mix of 90 Mi-8AMTSh and Mi-171Sh helicopters to Algeria (42), Iran (34), Yemen (12) and Eritrea (2) at a combined value of $450 million. In addition, it supplied 44 Mi-171 helicopters to Pakistan between 2002 and 2004 with a total value of $95 million.
The Mi-8AMTSh and Mi-171Sh programs are the result of the decision by the Mil design bureau (Stand E1020) to modernize its family of Mi-8 helicopters. Russia’s state military export agency Rosoboronexport (Stand E930) has helped Mil and Ulan-Ude exploit post 9/11 demand from countries upgrading helicopter fleets for counter-terrorism operations.
New Mid-East Support Center
Another important development has been Ulan-Ude’s initiative to create after-sales helicopter support. A new maintenance center at Sharjah International Airport to support aircraft operating in the Middle East also serves as a spare parts depot and center for pilot and mechanic training. Meanwhile Ulan-Ude is preparing to install a full-flight Mi-171 simulator there. Previously, foreign Mi-171 pilots have had to use an Mi-8AMT simulator, despite the fact that its cockpit is different from the Mi-171’s.
Rosoboronexport has led the initiative to standardize training for the Russian helicopters by exporting simulators built by Kronshtadt, the Russian defense enterprise. For example, next year the Syrian air force will receive six simulators, including three level-A integrated helicopter simulators–two for the Mi-17 military transport and one for the Mi-25 attack helicopter.
In the Middle East, Russian helicopter manufacturers, including Rostvertol, have sold units in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Ethiopia. Those deals have included Mi-35 attack helicopters, and Oboronprom is seeking export orders in the region for the newer Ka-52 gunship.