During the Kiev defence expo, the Motor Sich company presented the armed variant of the Mi-2MSB helicopter, equipped with new engines and armament. All of the new elements have been indigenously manufactured in Ukraine.
Mi-2MSB is the proposed modernized variant of the Mi-2 helicopter. The modernization is visible mainly in the replacement of the GTD-350 engines with the AI-450M engines, manufactured by the Motor Sich company. With 465 HP of power output, the fuel consumption is 27% lower and the engines are 25 kg lighter than in case of the predecessor - the GTD-450 powerplant, power output of which was lower, at 400 HP. The helicopter’s avionics have also been upgraded. Ultimately, a digital system may be used here.
The Mi-2MSB-W variant of the helicopter is fitted with the weapons pylons. The new version was premiered during the exhibition of the Ukrainian defence industry, organized in Kiev. The hardpoints featured 8-rocket 80 mm B8W8MSB rocket launchers, along with the automatic grenade launcher pods, manufactured by the Motor Sich company. Other optional armament includes machine gun pods. The pods are mounted close to the fuselage, while the ammunition is provided from the inside of the cabin. This is easy to realize, since the armament pylons go through the rear windows of the helicopter, both of which have been replaced with special panels. This makes it easier to modify the craft. No significant changes are required to be implemented within the fuselage structure.
Additional 7.62 mm machine guns may be mounted in the windows. These weapons are operated by the crew-members. The helicopter has also been fitted with a flares dispenser under the tail-boom, along with an IR-jamming system - these elements provide at least partial protection from the infra-red guided anti-aircraft missiles, which are considered to be one of the most significant threats for the military helicopters. Wide use of MANPADS in the Eastern part of Ukraine led to significant losses in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The helicopter in this layout may be used to carry out supplementary tasks, or it may act as a light attack aircraft. However, if the Ukrainians are willing to create a full-value counterpart of the French Gazelle helicopters, which are known for cooperation with the Tiger attack rotor-craft, then the Mi-2SB-W design lacks the relevant, modern optronic systems. The presented configuration of the Ukrainian helicopter does not feature any modern targeting, nor observation devices, which has a seriously limiting impact on its capabilities. The optronic sensor is one of the proposed elements of the prospective modernization, related to modification of the avionics, which - in a long run - is also going to make it possible to equip the Mi-2MSB helicopter with the guided air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles.
It should be stressed that Mi-2MSB is the first step of the advanced modernization programme, planned by the Motor-Sich company. MSB-2 programme assumes that the helicopter is going to be fitted with a new, front part of fuselage made out of the composites. Secondly, the avionics suite is going to be replaced with a fully digital, western-made system. Finally, a new powerplant based on the AI-450M engines and a new main gearbox, is going to be installed, and the whole system is going to be capable of transferring more power to the main rotor.
All of the above-listed changes are going to significantly improve the performance of this very popular helicopter. At the moment, the maximum take-off weight of the Mi-2 helicopter is 3.7 tonnes. The new gearbox manufactured by the Motor-Sich company, along with the Mi-2MSB powerplant, the maximum take-off weight is going to be increased, up to 4.3 tonnes. For a helicopter that is so little, 600 kilograms increase in the maximum take-off weight is a significant improvement of the overall performance. This will make it possible for the military variant to carry - besides the 2-man crew - up to 8 soldiers or twice as much armament, in comparison with the currently used version of the helicopter.
The Motor-Sich company is interested in cooperation with the PZL Świdnik facility within the scope of the aforesaid programme, since the Polish manufacturer is in possession of full production documentation. PZL-Świdnik also has the credentials required in order to modify the Mi-2 helicopters.
Motor-Sich is planning to offer the Mi-2MSB, and MSB-2 helicopters on the export markets, primarily in Asia and Africa, where significant quantity of the Mi-2 rotary-wing aircraft still remains in the active service.
The AI-450M engine performance also should not be overlooked, since its capabilities at high temperatures and altitudes are significantly better than they are in case of the Russian counterparts. The engine lifetime is also significantly longer.
Nonetheless,it is the Ukrainian National Guard command that is genuinely interested in the combat Mi-2MSB-W variant of the helicopter. The unit is willing to acquire the modernized rotorcraft next year, according to the declarations. At the moment, the National Guard is operationally using three Mi-8MSB-W helicopters, all of which were modernized at the Motor Sich facility.