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The Black 601, the only operable experimental prototype of the Ka-60 Kasatka multirole helicopter, completed its second flight on December 24, exactly a year after it took to the air for the first time.
The Kamov company tried to make this event a symbolic one, showing that the program of this next-generation helicopter, which is meant to become the most prolific in the Russian inventory in the beginning of this new century, is alive and well. The second flight became the first one fulfilled as part of the Ka-60 flight test program. It was perfromed by Kamov test pilots Vladimir Lavrov and Nikolai Shakhov.
The Ka-60 project began over 10 years ago mostly in the interest of the defense ministry, but also with some prospects on the civil scene. It was ordered as a middle-weight helicopter able to carry a 2,500 kg cargo on sling or 10 fully equipped commandos over 400 km. The helicopter was intended for reconnaissance missions, delivery of munitions to the battlefield, medical evacuation, patrolling, search and rescue operations, as well as pilot training.
The reason that the generals preferred Kamov to Mil as the developer of such an aircraft was that Kamov had amassed vast experience in the creation of helicopters with a comprehensive avionics set, and on this occasion these skills were required to integrate a highly capable on-board command, control, communications and reconnaissance suite.
According to the specifications, the Ka-60 should have a take-off weight of 6-6.5 tons, carry a payload of 2-2.5 t inside the cabin or a 2.5-3 t cargo on the underfuselage sling. The cabin should provide space for 10 fully armed commandos or 14-16 passengers in the case of civil use. Once the high speed became one of the specifications, Kamov decided to leave its traditional coaxial rotor layout in favor of classic "main rotor plus anti-torque propeller" configuration. The anti-torque propeller, for minimum drag at high speeds, was put inside the tail section, in a way similar to that on certain Eurocopter machines. However, unlike the Eurocopter's Finestron, the Ka-60's "11-blade shrouded tail propeller" with a diameter of 1,200 mm does not require a special gearbox that is found on the Eurocopter designs.
The main rotor with fully composite blades attached hingelessly to the titanium plates of the mast is driven by two Rybinsk Motors RD-600V engines of 1,200 hp each. According to the specification, the Ka-60 should have a cruise speed of 270 km/h and maximum speed of 300 km/h, but Kamov people say the real figures will be higher and finally set on the results of flight tests.
The Ka-60 had its full-scale mock-up inspection in 1990. That year its outward configuration was frozen. Shortly after, the project began to suffer from the economic troubles in Russia. Plans to put the helicopter in production before the end of the century did not materialize. In an effort to rescue the project from cancellation, Kamov began offering it to potential civilian users, most notably in VIP versions for state officials and "New Russians", as well as to large oil and natural gas companies for serving remote oil rigs and pumping stations. At the insistence of the defense ministry, some attempts have been recently made to simplify the initial production version of the aircraft, reducing its main role to that of a training machine for flight schools.
It seems, however, that the Chechen campaign is changing the attitude of Russian state bodies to the Ka-60. Clashes with Chechen rebels showed that the Russian Land Forces need a helicopter with modern reconnaissance equipment to identify small, moving targets in poor weather conditions, by day and night. There are some indications that the generals have persuaded the government to provide additional funding for the Ka-60 project, including that for development of its reconnaissance systems. In that sense, the requirement for the helicopter to have the capability to find, identify and illuminate small targets has again become the major one for the Ka-60. Reportedly, the government understood the Army's needs and provided extra funding for the project, and this allowed Kamov to resume flight tests on the Black 601.
Today, the bulk of funding for the Ka-60/Ka-62 effort is coming from the budgets of the Russian defense ministry and the ministry for economics. As mentioned above, Kamov is also trying to persuade industrial companies to provide funding for the civilian version of the aircraft. The Ka-60 and Ka-62 will share the same basic airframe, with the main difference being confined to on-board systems.
Kamov is optimistic about the future of the Ka-62, saying that its low direct operational costs and high lifetime resources (due to the extensive use of composites, which account for 60% in fuselage weight) will make it much more economical in operation than the ordinary Mi-8. The Ka-60 and Ka-62 are meant to take place of the highly successful Mi-4 of the same size, which was built in 3,200 copies in the Soviet Union and 575 in China. The Mi-4 was replaced in production by the twice larger Mi-8. Although successful (it was built in over 8,000 copies and still remains in production), the Mi-8 is somewhat oversized for the today's market. Kamov believes that the Ka-60 will be just the right size, while consuming just 350 kg of fuel per flight hour, a half of what for the Mi-8MTV.
On the civil market the Ka-62 will compete with the Sikorsky S-76. According to Stephen Malone, vice president of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, there are plans to set up S-76 production in Russia in an effort to take advantage of lower wages in this country. Sikorsky expects that setting up a production line in Russia would come to $150 million. In the case these plans materialize, the Russian customers will be given a choice of two helicopters in the middleweight class.
Comparing the S-76 with the Ka-62, Stephen Malone told AeroWorldNet at MAKS '99 that the S-76's main advantage is that it is a well-tried machine, with the number of delivered aircraft nearly 500, while the Ka-62 is still "a paper aircraft."
Continuing to draw comparison between the two aircraft, Malone said, "We could expect the Ka-62 will have a higher payload and take-off weight. Our aircraft is about 13,000 pounds, their aircraft is something like 14,000 pounds. We understand that their target price is $5 to $6 million. Our price is $6.5 to $8, but we are going to bring it down. I think we will have a better fuel economy, because we have Western engines, and our engines are less powerful and thus have lower hourly fuel burn. We will have lighter and smarter avionics systems. They will probably be more rugged. We will probably have better TBOs, which is one point of our design philosophy."
Normally, the Ka-60 and the Ka-62 will be powered by Rybinsk Motors RD600V engines, but there are plans to offer civil clients a special version of the Ka-62 with General Electric CT7-9 engines. Malone thus reacted to it. "I do not think that they can afford it," he said. "The CT7, with the take-off power of 1,800 hp, costs in excess of $0.5 million, which is much higher than the Ariel of 950 hp on the S-76. Two CT7 engines plus associated equipment on the Ka-60 would cost up to $1.5 million! I can't believe this is affordable."
At MAKS '99 AeroWorldNet also interviewed Vineamin Kasyannikov, deputy general designer with Kamov, on the point of comparison between the S-76 and Ka-60/Ka-62. Kasyannikov said that the Ka-60 is notably larger than the S-76, with normal seating capacity of 16 persons against 12 for the S-76. According to him, the Ka-60 will be faster and bigger than the S-76, the two qualities that should be appreciated by the VIP helicopter market. The Ka-60 will be a truly all-weather aircraft. Currently, the S-76 does not have de-icing system for the blades, which is not suitable for operations in Russia. The Ka-60 would be more rugged and far better suited for harsh environments.
Kasyannikov did not specify the list price for the Ka-60, just saying that "the price can be lower than Sikorsky people think."
He admitted that due to the high-power engines, the Ka-60 might have a higher fuel consumption than the S-76. At the same time, the Ka-60 will have better performance in high-and-hot regions. "Extra power is not at all a disadvantage for a helicopter such as ours," Kasyannikov concluded.
Later, the Kamov company revealed that the target price for a series-built Ka-62 with RD-600V engines is $4 million. This means that the Russian helicopter will be from 20% to 50% cheaper than its US and European analogs.