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The Russian Evolution

Story and Photos by Piotr Butowski

Displaying the adaptability that has always characterized the Russian aviation industry, Kazan Helicopters appears to have overcome political and financial turmoil in the rapidly changing Russian nation to evolve a succession of variants of its Ansat helicopter; the first helicopter designed by Kazan and also the first in Russia to be designed from scratch since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

THE LATEST EVOLUTION of the Ansat is its -2RC variant (Razvedchik-Celeukazatel - reconnaissance-target indicator) which made its maiden flight on 29 July 2005 in Kazan, just two weeks before its appearance at the MAKS 2005 air show in Zhukovsky near Moscow. Just as the original Bell's AH-1 Cobra was a derivative of that company's UH-1 'Huey', the Ansat-2RC derives from Kazan Helicopters' standard Ansat, with the prototype-demonstrator -2RC utilizing the dynamic systems (rotor, drives and engines) of the first flying prototype Ansat, whose serial-number (902) it retains. It has a narrow Cobra-like fuselage with tandem cockpits for the pilot (rear) and for the Mission Systems Operator (MSO). In the prototype the pilot's cockpit is fully equipped, while the MSO cockpit (with some test equipment installed) is currently presented in mock-up form only. The helicopter is equipped with the Russian electro-optical TOES-521 turret with thermo-vision camera and laser rangefinder and, according to manufacturer's specifications, can carry up to 1,300 kg of weapons and stores on four pylons under short wings in addition to a single fixed machine gun - the 12.7 mm Kord - installed at the starboard side.

At a media presentation at Kazan on 28 July, B8V7 seven-barreled 80-mm rocket launchers were installed on both outer pylons; the inner port side pylon carried two Igla antiaircraft missiles, while a small bomb hung under the starboard pylon. Two weeks later at Zhukovsky, the helicopter also carried a 200-liter fuel tank and in a presentation by Kazan, was also shown equipped with light anti-tank missiles. One unusual feature of this 'twocrew' helicopter is a 'third seat' in the rear part of the fuselage, accessed by a small door on the port side. Although the position is equipped with a support for light caliber weapons, it is intended to be for emergency use only, for such things as evacuating downed aircrew. Self-defense systems are typical for Russian military helicopters with chaff/ flare dispensers (the UV-26 with up to 128 f lares) installed on both sides of the fuselage, and an infrared jamming unit (L166V) between the engines. Russian tradition - confirmed by combat experience in places like Afghanistan and Chechnya - would suggest the helicopter be wellarmoured, however no information is currently available about Ansat-2RC's armour fit.
This is very much an early version of the helicopter whose configuration is almost certain to change as it develops. For example, the wings are currently set too low making access to weapon stations difficult and, in fact, Kazan's presentations already show a higher wing installation and a wheel landing gear instead of skids. There is little information to hand on advanced systems but it is certain that a production version will feature comprehensive sensor suites and self-defense systems.

The Ansat-2RC features two Pratt & Whitney PW207K engines with take-off ratings of 710 shp each and has a range on internal fuel of 710 km (380 nm) or 1,280 km (690 nm) with auxiliary tanks. Maximum take-off weight is given as 3,500 kg and maximum payload as 1,300 kg. Manufacturer's figures put the helicopter's service ceiling at 5,700 m (18,700 ft) with a hovering ceiling of 3,800 m (12,400 ft), its maximum speed at 300 km/h (160 kt) and its rate of climb of 16 m/sec (3,100 ft /min). WHAT MARKET? The decision by the US military to adopt the Bell ARH (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter) following the demise of the RAH-66 Comanche will help the marketing of Ansat-2RC as it shows that this type of helicopter is seen as a 'must have'. Kazan Helicopters has had an armed version of the Ansat under consideration for some time but development had to wait until the basic helicopter had matured. At MAKS 2001 the Company exhibited a wooden mock-up under the name of Ansat-Nabludatel (Ansat-Observer), which was very similar to the present prototype Ansat-2RC. While the mock-up was officially presented as a helicopter for 'ecological and engineering monitoring' equipped with a Svishch device for detection of gas and oil leaks, gamma radiation spectrometer and gas analyzer, its narrow fuselage with separate cockpits for pilot and operator suggested a rather more military purpose! Development of the Ansat-2RC has been entirely funded by Kazan. The freedom from reliance on the vagaries of government funding allows the company complete control over development schedules and costs. Kazan foresees a mainly export market and predicts significant demand in Asia, Africa and Latin-America. Although the export market is the Ansat-2RC's main target, the Russian Air Force also requires a light helicopter for reconnaissance and target indication, and the Ansat-2RC is one of three possible contenders, the others being the Ka-60R and Ka-226.

The Ka-60 was long ago selected for this role but despite its apparent 'head-start', the delays it has suffered (due mainly to problems with Government funding) could easily see Ansat-2RC achieve an earlier Initial Operational Capability (IOC) were it to be chosen instead. Although the Russian purchase of the -2RC version is not certain, in September 2001 the Ansat-U (Uchebnyi, training) won the Armed Forces tender for its new lightweight training helicopter. In May 2002 a contract was signed for the delivery of up to 100 helicopters by 2015, for use in both basic and advanced training. The Ansat-U prototype, which was due to fly by the end of 2005, differs from the basic version in featuring dualcontrols, wheeled landing gear instead of skids, and a reshaped cargo hold door with upper and lower opening halves - the lower half forming a step for ease of access to the rear cabin. Another version of Ansat displayed at MAKS' 2005 exposition was the Ansat-LL (Letayushchaya Laboratoriya); a flying test-bed purchased by the radar design bureau Radar-MMS of St Petersburg for testing its products. Another possible future variant under consideration is the Ansat-3; with take-off weight about 6,000 kg, it would carry up to 17 passengers or 1,700 kg payload and have a range of between 850 and 950 km. The Ansat-3 design borrows many elements from its smaller brother, particularly its systems and some airframe assemblies. The power plant has not been decided and development of the Ansat-3 will depend on interest from home and export markets. A NSAT FAMILY In the early 1990s Kazan started looking for new products and markets. Despite the fact that Russian Government orders for helicopters had virtually ceased, market analysis predicted a need for helicopters in the 3,000-3,500 kg range to replace the aging Mi-2.

After unsuccessfully assessing joint ventures with Mil, Eurocopter and Bell, in 1993 the factory established its own design bureau to develop Ansat, which means 'light' or 'simple' in the Tartar language (Kazan is the capital city of Tatarstan, an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation). With no suitable Russian engines available at the time, Kazan selected the (FADEC-equipped) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW207 with a take-off rating of 630 hp (470 kW) and an emergency rating of 710 hp (529 kW). The power margin allows operation from airfields up to 3,000 m above sea level at a temperature of 35xBAC. While this currently remains the standard engine, it may not suit some markets, so in addition to the option of licence building the Canadian engines at Kazan's KMPO factory, two Russian companies are designing alternatives - Klimov in St Petersburg with its VK-800V, and Salut in Moscow with its TV-500A.
The prototype Ansat 01, completed in 1998, was used for ground tests of the power system, rotors and control system. Prototype 02 (later re-serialled as 902) was the first flying Ansat. It took-off for the first time in Kazan on 17 August 1999 with Viktor Rusetskiy at the controls. Flight testing was initially very slow - during the first year of testing, Ansat spent less than five hours in the air due to stress problems in the tail rotor elements which resulted in its original rigid tail rotor being replaced by a more traditional hinged type. In the course of tests, the fuselage, engine and transmission fairings and tail unit were changed and re-shaped and the cabin cargo doors were changed several times. The original oblique windows of decreasing size were replaced by rectangular ones, and glazing was added above the pilots' seats.

Immediately after receiving its certificate of compatibility with AP-29 Cat A standards (Russian equivalent of FAR Pt 29 standards) on 29 December 2004, Kazan delivered the first three helicopters of a six-ship order to the Ansat's first customer, the South Korean Department of Forest Management. The basic version of Ansat is configured for a pilot and ten passengers (or two pilots and nine passengers), but with easily removable seats can be quickly re-configured to carry a 1,000 kg load, or in a 'crane' var iant, up to 1,300 kg externally. Ansat's structure is conventional and largely of aluminum alloys, although some parts such as engine and transmission cowlings, doors and hatch covers, and the fuselage nose fairing are of composite construction. The pilot's position is on the right and both front seats have forward-opening doors. Access to the cargo hold, which has a capacity of 6.7 m3, is via doors at both sides of the fuselage, which in some versions features a hatch for luggage or stretchers in the rear part of the hold. The four-bladed main rotor features a hinge-less hub while the conventional tail rotor has two blades; all blades are of composite construction, the main rotor blades having a 2,000-hour life. Main transmission (VR-23A) is a two-stage type with a transmission ratio of 16.4 giving a rotor speed of 365 rpm. Ansat is the first Russian helicopter to be equipped with a digital f ly-bywire system (KSU-A); its electronic elements being quadruplex, the hydraulic system duplex. The cockpit is equipped with two Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) for f light, navigation and system monitoring, although conventional instruments still dominate the instrument panels. The standard helicopter is designed for a 20,000 hour airframe life and features skid landing gear.

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Published on: 2006-04-08 (12490 reads)

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