Mi- 26:still alive and kicking


The mighty Mil Mi-26 is a dual-use rotorcraft still being successfully marketed around the world. In recent years it has seen some exciting developments and found new export customers. Alexander Mladenov reports

The Mi-26T2V boasts a new digital avionics suite dubbed NPK90-90V, which allows for an expanded scope of tactical operations, especially in bad weather, over water and in the night.
Alexander Mladenov

Known under the NATO reporting system as the ‘Halo’, the Mi-26 is undoubtedly among Russia’s greatest aviation achievements. It is still in widespread service providing vital heavy-lift capability for a number of military and paramilitary operators worldwide. The Mi-26 made its maiden flight in December 1977 in the capable hands of prominent Mil Design Bureau test pilot Gurgen Karapetyan, and the first production examples rolled off the line in Rostov-on- Don in 1980, entering service with the Soviet military in 1983.

Over 360 examples of all versions were produced at the Rostvertol plant in Rostovon- Don in southern Russia between 1980 and 2017, and by 2020 that number will exceed 380. The giant rotorcraft is set to continue in the demanding military heavy-lift role for many decades to come for Russia and several export customers, the latest of which are Venezuela, Algeria and Jordan. The production line is still active and thanks to expected orders from the Russian military and paramilitary organisations, augmented with possible export contracts, it is going to be kept up and running well into the late 2020s.

The type not only boasts enormous load lifting potential, but despite its mammoth size, it also sports a better agility and speed performance than the Mi-24 Hind and is significantly faster than the Mi-8AMTSh/ MTV-5 Hip. It could carry one full-laden Mi-8MTV-5 Hip plus an additional cargo of seven tonnes, or another Mi-26 on an external sling with the rotors, engines and the main gearbox removed. The high speed and load lifting performance is thanks to the Mi-26’s sound aerodynamic design and powerful engines, which offer good potential for future growth. The powerful airframe/ engine combination means the basic aircraft is suitable for extensive customisation. The main rotor has eight blades and a titanium rotor head, while the tail rotor has five blades and its diameter is comparable to the main rotor of smaller single-engined helicopters such as the MD 500.

The type’s largest operator, the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF), received a mix of 20 newly-built and deeply refurbished aircraft between 2011 and 2018. In addition, by early 2019 the number of enhanced Mi- 26T2s built for two export military customers will reach 18.

The Russian military is also set in the nearterm to place orders for a new-generation Halo derivative, sporting an all-new avionics suite and sophisticated self-protection aids, tailored for use in complex battlefield resupply missions, day and night.

Mi-26T2V for the Russian military

Moscow-based Mil MHP, the type’s design authority and Rostov-on-Don-based Rostvertol, the production plant for the Halo, are busy testing the Mi-26T2V prototype. It is a new derivative of the proven heavy-lift giant, designed for the Russian military but funded by Russian Helicopters’ own money.

The Mi-26T2V prototype was unveiled to the public for the first time at the Army 2018 defence exhibition held in Kubinka near Moscow. Reworked from a military-standard Mi-26 transport helicopter, it made its maiden flight at the factory airfield in Rostov-on- Don on August 18, 2018 and is currently undergoing a series of factory flight-tests to prove the functionality of its new avionics.

These initial tests undertaken by Mil MHP are slated for completion by the end of 2019 when the aircraft will be submitted for much more exhaustive testing and evaluation by the Russian MoD. According to Alexey Travkin, Mi-26T2V programme director at Rostvertol, the new Halo derivative tailored for the Russian military’s stringent requirements, is planned to start series production in 2019. This means that the first deliveries to the RuASF would be possible in late 2020 or early 2021.

The Mi-26T2V derivative, is broadly based on the export-standard Mi-26T2, initially designed for civil use but later on provided with military-specific design changes to make it suitable for military export customers. However, the Russian military derivative of the Halo sports, however, a much bigger set of new mission-specific systems required by the Russian military.

It has a cockpit crew of four: pilotcommander, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer – all of whom are provided with crash-resistant seats; one or two loadmasters work in the cargo hold. In contrast, the original Mi-26T2 facelift has a cockpit for two only – pilot-commander and co-pilot, plus a loadmaster seated at the rear.

The all-new NPK90-2V digital flight/ navigation suite, combined with the newlyinstalled mission systems, enables regular operations in very cold weather and low visibility conditions, day and night. The cockpit features a partial glass cockpit, with only two MFI-10-7V multi-functional displays (MFD) for flight/navigation and engine/system information. There is a set of conventional analogue flight and navigation instruments in front of each pilot. The navigator’s workstation situated on the port side (behind the pilot-commander), is equipped with one MFD and a set of analogue instruments for back-up.

New avionics suite

The all-new digital avionics suite, using Russian-made components, incorporates an enhanced four-channel digital autopilot system and navigation system using an inertial gyro reference platform for fully autonomous operations, without the need for ground navigation aids, and a dualredundant GLONASS/GPS satellite navigation receiver in addition to the KSS-26T2V integrated communications suite, featuring a set of secure radios covering the 2 to 400MHz range.

The Mi-26T2V also features night vision goggle (NVG)-compatible interior and exterior lighting enabling the crew members to use the Russian-made Geophizika-NV GEO-ONV-1-01 Gen III NVGs.

The new Halo derivative retains the capability to transport payloads weighing up to 20 tonnes on an external sling or inside the cabin. Its maximum gross weight is 56 tonnes, the same as that of its predecessor, with the cavernous cargo hold – 12.1m (39ft 7in) long, 3.25m (10ft 6in) wide and 3.15m (10ft 4in) high - accommodating up to 68 fully-equipped paratroops or 82 troops on lightweight folding seats arranged in four rows. When equipped for medevac, the Mi- 26T2V’s cabin can house up to 60 litters. Its size allows accommodation of a standard ISO container, two infantry fighting vehicles or other light armoured wheeled/tracked military equipment.

Russian military requirements call for the Mi-26T2V to be capable of operating from unprepared landing sites and in all weathers, including in extremely cold Arctic conditions, supporting the network of Russian military bases established in deep-frozen regions well above the Polar circle.

The Mi-26T2V retains some of the new avionics used on the export-standard Mi-26T2, combined with newly-installed mission systems to enable regular and safe operations of the new aircraft in very cold weather and low visibility conditions. The instrument panel in front of the pilots has two large-format colour displays and an array of conventional flight instruments.
Alexander Mladenov
A look at the navigator’s workstation of the Mi-26T2V, situated just behind the co-pilot seat.
Alexander Mladenov
The flight engineer of the Mi-26T2V sits behind the pilot and has a dedicated workstation for system control and monitoring.
Alexander Mladenov
The Mi-26T2 prototype was flown for the first time in 2011 and it is still used for testing and evaluation of new systems at Rostvertol and Mil MHP.
Rostvertol/Evgeniy Baranov

Among the most significant systems onboard is the L370E26L Vitebsk-26 selfprotection suite, integrating the L150-28M.26 Pastel radar warning receiver, L140 Otklik laser warning receiver, L370-2-01 ultraviolet (UV) missile approach warning system, L370-5 directional laser jammers and fourteen UV- 26M nine-round countermeasures dispenser units ejecting 50mm flares.

The missile approach warners and directional IR jammers are installed in conformal pods scabbed onto the fuselage sides, next to a battery of seven countermeasures dispensers. The Mi- 26T2V prototype also sports radar sensors installed on the fuselage sides, most likely used for missile approach warning purposes to complement the UV warners for increased effectiveness. The jamming effect of the directional laser jammers is also enhanced by pumping out IR flares from the dispensers.

The RuASF Mi-26T2V is estimated to have a requirement of between 20 and 25 aircraft. In addition, 15 to 20 more examples could be purchased in the medium term by the two Russian paramilitary organisations for internal security currently fielding their own air arms – Rosgvardia and the Federal Security Service. This version will not be offered to export customers, and instead the militarised Mi- 26T2 will continue to be promoted to foreign military and paramilitary customers.

Export-standard Halo facelift

The Mi-26T2 is the current production standard of the Halo for export to military customers; it is equipped with a glass cockpit and all-new flight/navigation avionics. The prototype made its maiden flight in February 2011 and the new version entered production at Rostvertol in 2013 for launch customer Algeria.

Engine woes

In the early 2010s Russian Helicopters’ Mi-26T2 upgrade plans called for powering the ‘new’ machine with a new D-136-2 turboshaft, supplied by Motor Sich of Ukraine, rated at 12,220shp in one engine inoperative (OEI) mode, and featuring a full-authority digital engine control to improve hot-and-high performance.

As of now, this option is only available to export customers. The RuASF’s newly-built Mi-26T2Vs will continue to be powered by the 1980s-vintage D-136 turboshaft, rated at 11,400shp each at take-off while the continuous maximum rating is 6,100shp.

The complete breakdown in political and economic relations between Russia and Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 put an end to the D-136-2’s chances of powering the new Mi-26 derivatives built for military and paramilitary uses in Russia. That is why the first production-standard Mi- 26T2Vs, to be built in 2021 – 2023 for the RuASF, will continue to be powered by refurbished D-136s taken from existing Russian MoD stocks.

As Russian Helicopters’ Boginsky hinted in May 2018, by 2022 or 2023 it should at last be possible for the Mi-26T2V to be re-engined with the newlydeveloped Russian-made Aviadvigatel PD-12V engine with vastly improved hot-and-high performance. The PD-12V, advertised as fully interchangeable with the D-136, is a twin-spool engine with an eight-stage high-pressure compressor, annular combustion chamber and two-stage high-pressure turbine. Using the PD-14’s certificated core - including the highpressure compressor, combustion chamber and the high-pressure turbine, it will be OEI-rated at about 11,500shp, maintained at altitude of up to 6,560ft and ambient air temperatures of up to 40° C (104° F). There is also an option to further boost the power to 14,000shp in emergency mode.

The new Russian-made engine is expected to endow the Mi-26T2V with even better hot-and-high performance, compared to the D-136-2-powered derivative. It is also advertised as being 18% more fuel-efficient, enabling longer range, and features much reduced maintenance requirements compared to the D-136.

A look inside the Mi-26T2V’s cavernous cargo hold, which remains exactly the same as that of the legacy Halo.
Alexander Mladenov
The Jordan is set to take on four Mi-26T2s in the baseline militarised configuration, with the first of these delivered in January 2018.
Jordanian Ministry of Defence

The Mi-26T2 features the civilianstandard BREO-26 avionics package, which incorporates largely Russianproduced components. It is built around the KRET NPK90-2 digital flight-navigation avionics suite with a LINS-100RS laser inertial navigation system and an A737-1 satellite navigation receiver in addition to the PKV-26D fouraxis digital autopilot.

An integrated navigation flight planning and communication system is also included in the package as well as a precise auto hover system, digital map display and five MFI-10- 7V multifunctional displays in the cockpit replacing most conventional instruments; the remaining conventional instruments are used for back-up purposes only.

The other new avionics components are represented by the KSS-26T2 communications suite and an 7A-813C weather radar. NVGcompatible interior and exterior lighting, a TSL- 1600 searchlight, an integrated self-protection suite and a SKY899 traffic collision avoidance system are offered as customer-selected options for military export customers.

The President-S26T2 self-protection suite (export version of the RuASF L370E26L Vitebsk-26) is offered as a customerselectable option and it was spotted for the first time installed on the newly-delivered Algerian Mi-26T2s in October 2016.

The new highly-automated avionics systems allows for the reduction of the Mi-26T2’s crew to three (pilot, co-pilot and flight mechanic/ loadmaster), down from the original figure of six (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio-operator, flight engineer and flight mechanic) as featured on the non-upgraded Mi-26.

The facelift was launched at Rostvertol in early 2014, with civil certification in Russia originally expected to be obtained in the second half of 2015. As of now, the certification process is still incomplete, and the type has been sold to military customers only, with no serious interest having been expressed by domestic and foreign civil operators. Algeria was the launch customer for the Mi-26T2. It opted for a high-end militarised subversion. The first example built for Algeria was spotted taking to the air for its first flight at Rostvertol on December 26, 2014, sporting a two-tone desert camouflage. According to Russian sources, the first Algerian military order covering six Mi-26T2s was inked in June 2013 and the delivery of the first two aircraft was reported in June 2015, with completion in 2016. Then a follow-on order for eight more helicopters was placed in 2015, with deliveries slated for completion in 2018.

Jordan is the second export customer for the Mi-26T2 thanks to a contract signed in April 2017. The agreement between Russian Helicopters and Jordan’s King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau covers the delivery of four helicopters for the country’s military. The first of these, sporting a distinctive camouflage, was seen undergoing its functional check flights at Rostvertol in mid- October 2017 and its delivery was reported in January 2018. According to Andrey Boginsky, Russian Helicopters’ director general, the remaining three Mi-26T2s for the Jordanian military were scheduled for delivery before the end of 2018. AI