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Interview with Alexander Mikheev Chief Executive Officer Rusian Helicopters
22.09.2015
Alexander Mikheev
Chief Executive Officer Rusian Helicopters
HME : When and why was Russian Helicopters created as an integrated industrialist?
Alexander Mikheev : “Russian Helicopters” was established in 2007 in order to consolidate all Russian helicopter engineering companies, R&D centers as well as a number of enterprises manufacturing main helicopter component parts.  Before, in the Soviet times, all helicopter engineering companies in the country worked as a single mechanism, but in the 1990s this system disintegrated.
The creation of the holding made it possible to revive the broken ties between the companies, eliminate unnecessary internal competition and enhance the development, manufacturing and maintenance cycle for helicopters.
After the consolidation of the helicopter industry, we have made major efforts to establish an efficient system of warranty and after-sales service for the Russian helicopters in Russia and abroad.  Today the holding includes design bureaus, helicopter factories, most of the Russian aircraft repair plants specialized in helicopters, and specialized organizations responsible for after-sales service of helicopters in operation.

HME : How many types of helicopters are in production today at Russian Helicopters, both civil and military range ?

Alexander Mikheev : The products range of “Russian Helicopters” is represented in virtually all sectors of the helicopter market. Light helicopters “Ansat” and Ka-226T designed over the last years can be used for a wide variety of tasks due to their design features.  Despite the fact that these types of helicopters have only recently entered the global and Russian markets, the marketing activities of the recent years aimed at promotion of these helicopters have already achieved tangible results.  We can see interest to “Ansat” and Ka-226T from both Russian and foreign customers.  We’ll start deliveries of these helicopters to customers in 2015-2016.  The contracts have already been signed, even as the helicopters were only certified at the beginning of 2015.  In the sector of medium helicopters, the holding is represented by the legendary “eight”, that is, by helicopters created on the basis of Mi-8 and by the multi-purpose helicopter Ka-32A11BC.

When it comes to the Mi-8 type, it is generally enough to mention only two facts. First, there are around 5,5 thousand helicopters of this type in operation around the world, and second, they have been supplied to more than 100 countries.  In short, this is the most popular twin-engine helicopter in the world.

But I’d like to be more detailed…Mi-8 was created in the early sixties of the last century by the genius men of the Soviet helicopter industry and has not yet fully exhausted its potential.  Naturally, Mi-8AMT, Mi-8MTV-1 and their export variants Mi-171 and Mi-17V-5 that are currently in production are quite different from the helicopters of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  They are equipped with the up-do-date avionics, navigation and communications systems, autopilots etc.; they can fly at any time of day and in any weather.  However, they are still undemanding in operation and easy to use, and that has always been their main competitive advantage.

Another unique medium helicopter is Ka-32A11BC. Due to the coaxial design this helicopter is irreplaceable in urban conditions and for special tasks.  It is effectively used for medical and evacuation purposes, for firefighting in high-rise buildings, etc.  At present, the Ка-32А11BC helicopter is operated successfully in the CIS states, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, China and Brazil.

In the segment of heavy helicopters, the holding is represented by Mi-26.  This helicopter has 14 world records, including the record in weight-lifting.  Currently, we have developed and since 2015 started serial deliveries of the Mi-26T2 helicopter, which is based on the Mi-26 and acquired all the best features of its predecessor, adding to it the most modern on-board radar system, communications and navigation systems and new avionics.

In the military segment, “Russian Helicopters” are represented by Mi-28, Ka-52, Mi-35M, Ka-31 types.  Each of these helicopters has its designated use and is fully competitive in the world market, which can be confirmed by contracts signed over the recent years for delivery of these helicopters to different countries and regions of the world.  It is necessary to point out that at year-end 2014, “Russian Helicopters” enterprise represented around 35% of the global market of military helicopters.  In our opinion, this fact speaks volumes.

The only segment that “Russian Helicopters” is not represented in at the present moment is the ultra-light class of helicopters. In the near future, « Russian Helicopters » is going to address this issue and introduce a helicopter in this class to the market.  In addition, it should be noted that based on the results of the analysis of the global helicopter market, the holding has defined the main directions of further development of the model range, and in the next three years we plan to begin mass production and delivery of Ka-62, Mi-171A2 and Mi-38 helicopters, which have the required export potential.

HME : How many plants work at present for Russian Helicopters (in Russia and anywhere else)? Where are those plants located?

Alexander Mikheev : Plants that are part of “Russian Helicopters” are located all over Russia, from its eastern to western borders.  In the East, it is Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company near Vladivostok.  In the West, it is Aircraft Repair Plant No. 150 in Kaliningrad Oblast.

Today, the holding includes the plants that are engaged in mass production of helicopters: Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (Ulan-Ude), Kazan Helicopters (Kazan), Rostvertol (Rostov-on-Don), Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise (Kumertau), Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company (Arsenyev).  Besides, the holding has two companies that manufacture component parts: Reductor-PM (Perm) and Stupino Machine Production Plant (Stupino).  In addition to the plants that are involved in mass production of helicopters developed by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and Kamov Design Bureau, the holding includes service companies that provide maintenance for domestic helicopters.

These are Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant (Novosibirsk), Aircraft Repair Plant No. 12 (Khabarovsk), No. 356 (Engels), No. 419 (Petersburg), No. 810 (Chita), No. 150 (Kaliningrad Oblast) and Helicopter Service Company (Moscow Oblast).

HME : How many helicopters made by Russian Helicopters fly at present around the world and what is the share of exports of Russian Helicopters production?

Alexander Mikheev : There are over 8500 Russian helicopters currently operated around the world. In addition, this index in recent years shows a positive trend, as volume of deliveries exceeds the volume of withdrawal from operation, partially due to improvement of the maintenance service. Regarding the volume of exports, it can be said that in the last 3-5 years the distribution of deliveries between domestic and export markets was 50/50.  The holding intends to keep this proportion, as it is ideal from the point of view of risk mitigation and budget balance.

HME : In how many countries is the Russian Helicopters fleet divided in the world?

Alexander Mikheev : Russian (Soviet) made helicopters are currently operated in more than 100 countries around the world.  The biggest pool of helicopters is, naturally, in Russia. A big number of Russian helicopters are used in India and China, which have been our strategic partners historically.  Generally speaking, helicopters produced by the holding are used in virtually all regions of the world and in all existing climatic zones.

HME : What type of engines is usually assembled on Russian Helicopters aircrafts? How many Russian engine manufacturers are involved ? Please detail. What can you tell us about partnerships with American or European engine manufacturers ?

Alexander Mikheev : Our main partner in terms of helicopter engines is the Russian United Engine Corporation (UEC).  To the benefit of the holding, the EUC supplies VK-2500 engines that are mounted on Mi-8, Mi-28, Mi-35, Ka-52 helicopters and is starting to supply TV7-117 engines for Mi-38 and other helicopters. The holding actively cooperates with French (Turbomeca), Canadian (P&W) and other companies with regard to propulsion systems.

“Russian Helicopters” never refuse to implement joint projects with foreign companies regardless their ownership.  We’re always open for a dialogue.  It is necessary to point out that our partners from the European Union, Canada and the US share the same attitude and hope just as we do that political decisions will not become a deterrent factor for development of hi-tech companies.

HME : What kind of partnership with other aircraft manufacturers are in progress today ?

Alexander Mikheev : As said above, “Russian Helicopters” actively develop partnership relations with manufacturers of engines from the EU and other countries. As an example, our partnership with “Turbomeca” from the Safran Group. At present, a new light helicopter Ka-226T is equipped with high-power and energy-efficient Turbomeca Arrius 2G1 engines, and the multipurpose Ka-62, which is currently under development, will be equipped with Turbomeca Ardiden 3G engines.  Speaking about the long-term strategic outlook, it is necessary to emphasize that we are always open for mutually beneficial cooperation with reliable companies.

HME : What about a partnership with the Chinese industry ?

Alexander Mikheev : China has always been one of our strategic partners.  Suffice to say that there are more than 300 Russian-built helicopters of different types operated in China.  It must also be noted that in recent years the principles of cooperation with the Chinese side have changed. We shift to implementation of joint innovative projects in the sphere of development of new helicopters. One of the directions of such interaction was the framework agreement between “Russian Helicopters” and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) dedicated to cooperation in creation of a future heavy helicopter.

This is a long-term project involving many Russian and Chinese companies.  Even now, at the initial stage of its implementation, it is already clear that the result of this work will be deep integration between the Russian and Chinese aviation companies, the development of new competencies and application of the most promising and innovative designs and approaches in manufacturing. We hope that the development and organization of the future heavy helicopter will be the first step in cooperation between “Russian Helicopters” and Chinese partners and that the number and scale of such projects will increase from year to year.

HME : On a general point of view, how would you describe Russian Helicopters strategy on his markets today, given that American and European helicopter manufacturers show themselves very enterprising and innovative ?

Alexander Mikheev : Indeed, the US and European companies should be given proper respect, they invest huge sums into development of new technologies and creation of new products.  However, it also carries certain risks.  Modern Western helicopters have become so sophisticated and high-tech that it is virtually impossible to operate and service them in the field environment.

It creates certain competitive advantages for the Russian products and we have to take advantage of it.  And if we’re speaking about the mid-term strategy of “Russian Helicopters”, we can define three main development vectors. The first is continuous improvement of the existing model range.  The revamping potential of nearly all types of Russian helicopters is far from being exhausted.  We have room for improvement both in the sphere of on-board, radar, communications and other equipment, and in the sphere of weapon systems development.  The potential of our design bureaus allows solving these tasks and they will be solved.

The second is development and introduction of new helicopter types to the market. In coming years we plan to start serial production of Mi-38, Mi-171А2 and Ka-62 that will take place both on the Russian and global market.  We need to increase the share of Russian light and ultra-light helicopters.  We are currently developing a high-speed helicopter. The third vector is, of course, service. Without a modern servicing system that can quickly solve maintenance problems of the global pool of Russian/Soviet helicopters, it is pointless to talk  about the development prospects of the holding.  Among major challenges facing the holding I should mention the creation of an efficient system of after-sales service that would satisfy the requirements of all our customers.

by François Blanc

Russian helicopters magazine
Issue #1 (36) 2019
2019 year