The announcement was made at the recent African Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2006 exhibition, held at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town.
The Russian companies concerned are the Mil Moscow Heli-copter Plant, Rosvertol Helicopter Production Plant, Kazan Helicopter Production Plant, Nartz spare parts and repair facility, and the Russian State-owned defence export company, Rosoboronexport.
The agreement provides for the integration of ATE (and other) avionics in a wide range of Russian civil helicopter designs, including the Mi-2, the Mi-17, the Mi-34 and the giant heavy-lift Mi-26.
The ATE avionics packages would be available for integration on newly-built helicopters or as moder-nisation and upgrade packages for older examples of these models.
“Russian helicopters are renowned as rugged, tough machines that are well suited to the demands of the African theatre of operations,” said ATE chairperson Jean-Marc Pizano.
“The upgrades will give them the additional edge to perform even better,” he added.
Working in collaboration with the Russian companies, ATE has already developed upgrade packages for civilian versions of the Mil Mi-17 and Mi-26 helicopters, and is working to develop similar packages for the Mi-2 and Mi-34.
The upgrade for the Mi-17 includes the fitting of a full ‘glass cockpit’ (that is, the instruments predominantly take the form of TV-like colour liquid-crystal displays, monochrome displays, and multifunction control and display units), weather radar, a comprehensive radio navigation suite, radar alti- meter, and an automatic flight control system.
Designated by ATE as the Mi-17 IFR, the resulting aircraft can be certified for operation under instrument flight rules (and not just visual flight rules), so greatly increasing its commercial utility, by allowing it to be safely operated at night and in poor weather.
The upgrade for the Mi-26, known as the Mi-26 IFR, is very similar, and allows this giant machine to carry out scheduled commercial operations without compromising its abilities as a heavy-lift helicopter operating in remote areas.
Similar packages are now being developed for the Mi-2 and Mi-34. In terms of the agreement, a maintenance centre for Russian civil helicopters operating in Africa will also be established, in the Johannesburg area. Meanwhile, in a separate programme, also announced at AAD 2006, the South African company has unveiled its latest upgrade packages for Mil’s Mi-17 and Mi-24 mili-tary helicopter families.
The latest Mi-24 upgrade is referred to as the ‘Superhind Mark V’ package by ATE, and the company now offers four different upgrades for this machine, from the relatively low-cost and simple Superhind Mk II, through the Superhind Mk IIIB, to the Superhind Mk IV, and now the Mk V.
(The name Superhind derives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation codename for the Mi-24 – ‘Hind’.) The Superhind Mk II retained the original weapons of the Mi-24, but integrated modern avionics, includ- ing fully night-vision goggles, compatible cockpits and Denel’s Argos 410 stabilised day/night main sight system.
The Mk IIIB version is built on the Mk II, but replaces the original weapons system with a South African system, with a 20-mm dual-feed cannon mounted in a turret developed by IST of Tshwane and Denel’s Ingwe antitank missiles, while also adding a flight management system and a digital map function.
The Mk IV adds a modern glass cockpit to the improvements of the Mk IIIB.
The Superhind Mk V is, how- ever, a more radical upgrade, as, in addition to the avioincs and weapons package of the Mk IV, it involves a redesigned cockpit section with an improved field of view, moving the pilot to the forward (instead of rear) cockpit, and reducing aircraft weight by 2 t, so increasing its agility and ability to fly very low.
A mock-up of the Mk V was displayed at AAD 2006.
ATE has also developed a composite rotor blade for the Mi-24, to replace its original metal blades.
This new composite blade has been entirely designed and developed in South Africa.