India Receives Final Batch of Russian Mi-17 Helicopters
Image Credit: Russian Helicopters

India Receives Final Batch of Russian Mi-17 Helicopters

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In late January, the Indian Air Force (IAF) received the last three out of a total order of 48 Russian-made military transport helicopters, The Economic Times reports, while according to sources with India’s Ministry of Defense, a new contract for an additional 48 aircraft could be signed within weeks.

The recent delivery brings up the total number of Mi-17V-5 helicopters procured by India to 151. (One Mi-17V-5 has been lost in 2013 during rescue operations in the north of India.) In 2008, Rosoboronexport, the Russian state intermediary agency responsible for the import and export of defense technology, signed an initial contract for the delivery of 80 Mi-17V-5 choppers to India. This was followed by the signing of contracts in 2012 and 2013 for an extra 71 Mi-17V-5 helicopters, the last three of which have now been handed over to Indian authorities.  ”The helicopters were delivered on Friday, January 29,” a spokesman of Rosoboronexport told Interfax.

Produced by Russian Helicopters–Russia’s sole rotorcraft designer–at its Kazan Helicopter Plant, the Mi-17V-5 is based on the Mi-8 airframe and is one of the most advanced aircraft of the Mi-8/17 helicopter family. Every Mi-17V-5 helicopter is equipped with night vision technology, on-board weather radar, a new PKV-8 autopilot system, and a KNEI-8 avionics suite, which, according to a Russian Helicopters press release, results “in a very clear and intuitive cockpit with four large multi-functional displays that are easy to read and help reduce pilot fatigue.” The system purportedly also helps reduce pre-flight inspection time.

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Fitted with powerful engines for “hot and high” conditions, the Mi-17V-5 helicopter boasts a top speed of 250 kilometers (155 miles), and has an operational range of 580 kilometers (360 miles), which can be extended to 1065 kilometers (661 miles) when equipped with two auxiliary fuel tanks. The helicopter’s operational ceiling is 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) and the IAF has repeatedly used the aircraft to supply Indian Army units stationed on the Siachen glacier in the Himalayas.

The Mi-17V-5’s maximum takeoff weight is 13,000 kilogram and the chopper can carry 36 persons or 4,000 kilograms of cargo inside the cabin, with an additional 4,500 kilogram payload attached on an external sling. The aircraft can be employed for a host of different missions including  troop and cargo transport, fire support, patrol, and search and rescue missions.

Furthermore, the chopper can be armed with various machine guns, missiles and rockets, but it is unclear whether the last batch of 48 Mi-17V-5s delivered to India have been weaponized. The Indian Air Force is also in the process of equipping its Mi-17V-5 fleet with modern electronic warfare (EW) suites.

The Mi-17V-5 makes up the backbone of the IAF’s transport helicopter fleet, according IAF headquarters. “India is one of the key markets for the company and a major operator of Russian helicopters in Southeast Asia. The country is currently operating over 400 aircraft which have an excellent reputation,” said the head of Russian Helicopters Alexander Mikheev, on the occasion of the recent helicopter delivery.

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