World’s largest transport helicopters will not fly – only Ukraine makes their engines – Technology Org

Mi-26 is the world’s largest transport helicopter. Most of them belong to the Russian army. But their engines are made in Ukraine.

Military helicopter Mi-26.

Military helicopter Mi-26. Image credit: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Having this in mind, the future prospects do not look good for Mi-26. For the time being, these helicopters are still operational. However, the Russian reserves of spare parts and replacement engines are rapidly approaching zero.

D-136 engines are manufactured by the Ukrainian company Motor Sich. But after the recent arrest of its CEO Vyacheslav Boguslaev, who illegal equipment deliveries to the Russian Federation, this supply line has been completely cut off.

To some extent, the Russian Federation has predicted such a situation and started developing its own replacement engine back in 2016. Theoretically, this new model is scheduled to enter serial production in 2025. But the working prototype is not completed yet.

It should be noted that Russia produces engines for several other helicopter models, including Mi-28, Ka-52, and Mi-8 with a production output of several hundred units per year.

But the largest Russian Mi-26 transport helicopters, which also are the heaviest machines in their class in the world, are a different story. A single Mi-26 weighs up to 56 tons when fully loaded, including cargo up to 20 tons and even more. It is over 33 meters long and needs two D-136 engines to fly. Each engine produces a power output of over 11,000 hp.

Russia tried to solve this issue by attempting to replace Mi-26 with a new transport aircraft Il-112V. This project started in 1994, but experienced a number of setbacks and delays until the first and only prototype was demonstrated on 18 January 2018. But on 17 August 2021, the same prototype suffered a fire in its engine and crashed. No other Il-112V was built since then.

According to the Security Service of Ukraine, the former CEO of Motor Sich has regularly supplied D-136 engines to Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia appears to continue building Mi-26 helicopters, including updated prototypes Mi-26T2 and its military version Mi-26T2W. Both models passed official state trials in 2019.

In 2016, the development of a new engine to replace the Ukrainian D-136 was announced. It is based on the PD-14 jet engine used in Russian Irkut MC-21 passenger aircraft. According to preliminary specifications, it should be able to develop a power of 14,500 hp while using 18% less fuel. It is expected to be 100 kg heavier compared to D-136.

The only major issue is the fact that the serial model of the replacement engine does not exist yet. It was supposed to go into production in 2019 but now is delayed at least until 2025.

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