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Lantian-Mil' Mi-171 transport/utility helicopter
Sichuan Lantian Helicopter Co., Ltd.

The Mi-171 is an export version of the Mi-8 Hip helicopter, fitted with more powerful turboshaft engines. Currently in production at two factories in the Russian Volga area city of Kazan and the East Siberian city of Ulan-Ude, it features more powerful turboshaft engines and can transport up to 37 passengers.

The Mi-171 utility transport helicopter is a Mi-8-family helicopter and a derivative of the Mi-17. It was designed by the "Mil" Design Bureau, and has been batch-produced at the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant since 1990. The passenger modification of the helicopter is capable of transporting 26 men, while the cargo version can airlift up to 4,000 kg of internally and externally mounted cargo.

The Mi-171 is capable of airlifting bulky cargo with its rear doors stripped, carrying out various mounting and loading tasks, conducting search-and-rescue operations, and fulfilling other tasks. The helicopter is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation equipment, enabling it to conduct instrument flights. The helicopter has a three-man crew, a maximum takeoff weight of 13,000 kg, a service ceiling of 6,000 m with a standard weight of 11,100 kg, and 4,800 m with the maximum weight. It has a range of 610 km with main fuel tanks, and 1,650 m with two additional fuel tanks. Its maximum speed totals 250 km/h.

Following the US Government's refusal to sell more S-70Cs, China purchased 24 Mi-17s in 1991, and another 35 improved Mi-171s were purchased in 1995. In 2001, Army Aviaion introduced the new Mi-17-V5 transport helicopter. Russia's Ulan-Ude Aircraft Plant had supplied more than 60 Mi-17-V5s by the end of 2007. A new batch of Mi-171 (M-171E?) was imported in 2006 by the Army and by the Air Force. In 2006, Russia completed approximately US$1.4 billion in sales to China, including eight diesel submarines and 88 MI-171s.

In April 2007 Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (UUAP) completed delivering to China of Mi-171 helicopters according to the contract that was signed early 2006. As per the contract a total of 24 civil Mi-171 helicopters was delivered to China: 22 helicopters in transport version and 2 helicopters in VIP version. Supplies began in the middle of the last year and were affected by batches of 4 helicopters. The completed delivery of 24 Mi-171 helicopters had become a regular phase of successful cooperation between Chinese companies and UUAP.

China was a standing partner of the plant. Currently this country is the largest operator of Mi-171 helicopters. A total of more than 90 Mi-171 helicopters in various versions were delivered to China. Mi-171 helicopters are used in China for various purposes: transportation of cargo, passengers, geologic exploration, patrolling, fire fighting, offshore conveying, SAR operations etc. The aircraft had made a good showing in such activities and got an excellent name among Chinese operators. In particular, Mi-171 took part in the operation of meeting the first Chinese cosmonaut Yan Livey right after his landing and transported him to base. Afterwards, Mi-171 helicopters always have been used during operations of meeting Chinese cosmonauts after their landing.

As of November 2010 a contract was in execution by Russian Helicopters to deliver 32 multi-role Mi-171E helicopters manufactured by Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant (UUAP) to China. UUAP had already delivered 24 Mi-171 helicopters to a Chinese customer in 2007.

In May 2011 it was reported that Russian Helicopters JSC "continues to supply" 32 Mi-171 helicopters to the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, deliveries having begun in 2010. Russia will finalize the sale of 34 transportation helicopters to China by August 2011. The Mi-171 helicopters were being built in a plant in Russia's Buryat republic. The plant is a part of the Russian Helicopters holding. The plant's CEO, Leonid Belykh, said the contract for building the helicopters was signed in 2010. "This is not the first and hopefully not the last contract with our Chinese partners," he said. Russia and China have been negotiating on a joint venture for localization of assembly of the Russian helicopters, he said. The Sichuan Lantian Helicopter Company assembled Mi-171 family helicopters under licence from Mil, under a joint venture launched in March 2007. The Lantian Helicopter Company is based at military-equipment repair plant No. 5701 in Chengdu, in the Sichuan province in southwest China. China planned to build at least 20 helicopters in 2008 with assembly kits supplied by a Russian plant in Ulan-Ude, with initial plans for a later increase production capacity to 80 aircraft per year.

Variants are understood to include the Mi-171, Mi-17V5 and Mi-17V7, using CKD kits supplied from the Russian factory at Ulan-Ude. Maiden flight of the first Chinese-assembled example was announced by the Chengdu Wuhou local government on 4 December 2007, and 20 were scheduled for completion in 2008 under an initial contract valued at CNY300 million (US$42.8 million). In a second stage of the program, worth a further CNY1.3 billion (USD185.5 million), Lantian ('Blue Sky' in English) would produce a further 60 of these helicopters using Russian Ulan-Ude-supplied kits. Total sales were projected to reach 1.6 billion yuan ($228 million) in 2008. The first two Chinese-assembled Mi-171s (B-7833 and '7834) were delivered to Qingdao Helicopter Aviation Co on 16 December 2009.

The Chinese were planning to export [Mi-171] helicopters to Pakistan and Africa, which may hurt Russian exports. In addition, the successful implementation of the project could leave Russian manufacturers in Kazan and Ulan-Ude short of component parts. In 2007, Russian companies only built 120 Mi-171 helicopters, although they had orders for 150 aircraft, due to a shortage of transmissions and rotors, and as of 2008 there were no plans in the future to increase production for these components. At the same time, some Russian experts believe it is better to allow the Chinese to manufacture helicopters under license rather than sit and wait until China develops its own version, modeled on Russian designs.

Yefim Gordon, Dmitriy Komissarov noted "The deal has already been criticised as a myopic move in Russia because China plans to export the locally built Mi-171 s to Pakistan and African countries, which are among the established customers for Russian arms export. Worse, the need to supply components to China might leave the Russian helicopter manufacturers short of components, which will disrupt deliveries to the burgeoning domestic helicopter market because component suppliers are not in a position to produce more. However, a spokesman for a Russian organisation called Strategy and Technology Analysis Centre said that 'sooner or later China, a nation that is capable of sending a man into space, will copy the helicopter without Russian assistance (read: illegally - Auth.) if it wants the helicopter bad enough, so Russia had better participate in the process [and gain some profits] instead of just looking on passively'."

This seems to have been put on hold, as the Lantian Helicopter Company website is offline, and the entire enterprise is very poorly attested apart from the initial news reports.

But Strategy Page reported June 1, 2011 that "Now that China can legally manufacture the Russian Mi-171 helicopter, it is increasing production and continuing to buy these helicopters from Russia. By the end of the year, China will have nearly 300 Mi-171s, and this is becoming the standard transport helicopter for them. China may eventually have over a thousand Mi-171s."



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