Mil Mi-26

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Russian Air Force Mi-26 Beltyukov.jpg
Russian Air Force Mi-26
Role Heavy lift cargo helicopter
National origin Soviet Union/Russia
Manufacturer Rostvertol
Designer Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
First flight 14 December 1977
Introduction 1983
Status In service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force
Indian Air Force
Produced 1980–present
Number built 316[1]

The Mil Mi-26 (Russian: Миль Ми-26, NATO reporting name: Halo) is a Soviet/Russian heavy transport helicopter. Its product code is izdeliye 90. Operated by both military and civilian operators, it is the largest and most powerful helicopter to have gone into series production.

Design and development[edit]

Following the incomplete development of the heavier Mil Mi-12 (prototypes known as Mil V-12) in the early 1970s, work began on a new heavy-lift helicopter, designated as the Izdeliye 90 ("Project 90")[2] and later allocated designation Mi-26. The new design was required to have an empty weight less than half its maximum takeoff weight.[3] The helicopter was designed by Marat Tishchenko, protégé of Mikhail Mil, founder of the OKB-329 design bureau.[4]

The Mi-26 was designed to replace earlier Mi-6 and Mi-12 heavy lift helicopters and act as a heavy-lift helicopter for military and civil use, having twice the cabin space and payload of the Mi-6, then the world's largest and fastest production helicopter. The primary purpose of the Mi-26 was to transport military equipment such as the 13 metric ton (29,000 lb) amphibious armored personnel carriers and mobile ballistic missiles to remote locations after delivery by military transport planes such as the Antonov An-22 or Ilyushin Il-76.

The first Mi-26 flew on 14 December 1977[5] and the first production aircraft was rolled out on 4 October 1980.[2] Development was completed in 1983 and by 1985, the Mi-26 was in Soviet military and commercial service.[3]

Aeroflot Mi-26 at the 1984 Farnborough Air Show

The Mi-26 was the first factory-equipped helicopter with a single, eight-blade main lift rotor. It is capable of flight in the event of power loss by one engine (depending on aircraft mission weight) thanks to an engine load sharing system. While it is only slightly heavier than the Mi-6, the Mi-26 can lift up to 20 metric tons (44,000 lb). It is the second largest and heaviest helicopter ever constructed, after the experimental V-12. The tail rotor has about the same rotor diameter and thrust of the four-bladed MD 500 main rotor.[6]

The Mi-26's unique main gearbox is relatively light at 3,639 kg (8,022.62 lb)[7] but can absorb 19,725 shp, which was accomplished using a non-planetary, split-torque design with quill shafts for torque equalization.[8] The Mil Design Bureau designed the VR-26 transmission itself due to the Mil's normal gearbox supplier admitting that such a gearbox could not be designed.[9] The gearbox housing is stamped aluminum.[7] A split-torque design is also used for the 12,500 lb (5,670 kg) gearbox on the three-engine CH-53K.[10]

As of 2013, the Mi-26 still holds the FAI record of greatest mass lifted to 2,000 metres - it lifted 56,768.8 kg in 1982.[11]

In July 2010 a proposed Russian-Chinese development of a 33-ton heavy-lift helicopter was announced.[12]

Rostvertol, the Russian helicopter manufacturer is in the process of refurbishing and upgrading the entire fleet of Mi-26s serving in the Russian Air Force. The fleet is estimated to be around 20 helicopters. The upgraded aircraft will be comparable to a new variant, the Mi-26T. Contract completion is planned for 2015. The contract also covers the production of 22 new Mi-26T helicopters. Eight new-built helicopters were delivered to operational units by January 2012.[13] Under the 2010 contract, 17 new-production helicopters have been delivered through 2014.[14] Rostvertol was delivered 14 Mi-26s in 2012-14 to domestic and foreign customers and 6 helicopters in 2015.[15]

In 2016, Russia started development of a variant of the Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofan engine to power the Mi-26.[16]

Operational history[edit]

A Mi-26 in a military parade over Caracas, Venezuela

Buran Programme[edit]

The developers of the Buran space vehicle programme considered using a couple of Mi-26 helicopters to "bundle" lift components for the Buran spacecraft, but test flights with a mock-up showed how risky and impractical that was.[17]

Chernobyl Accident[edit]

The Mi-26S was a disaster response version hastily developed during the containment efforts of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.[18] Thirty Mi-26 were used for radiation measurements and precision drops of insulating material to cover the damaged No. 4 reactor. It was also equipped with a deactivating liquid tank and underbelly spraying apparatus. The Mi-26S was operated in immediate proximity to the nuclear reactor, with a filter system and protective screens mounted in the cabin to protect the crew during delivery of construction materials to the most highly contaminated areas.[19]

World Team Skydiving[edit]

For three weeks in September 1996, the Russian military loaned four fully crewed Mil Mi-26 helicopters and granted the use of its Anapa airbase to the World Team for its skydiving free fall formation world record attempt. The World Team was made up of top-tier skydivers from over 40 countries and led by Hollywood aerial stunt performer B. J. Worth. With the goal of setting a new 300-way free fall formation record and using the high altitude and high capacity performance of the Mi-26, the World Team quickly flew 300 participants, plus aerial judges, photographers, and cinematographers up to 6,700 metres (22,000 ft), then simultaneously dropped them in a tight formation. The Mi-26 helicopter crews and equipment performed flawlessly in their first experience with close formation flying, and flew away with an assist in the new 297-way world record set on 27 September 1996, just three shy of the objective.[citation needed]

Siberian Woolly Mammoth Recovery[edit]

In October 1999, a Mi-26 was used to transport a 25-ton block of ice encasing a well-preserved, 23,000-year-old Woolly Mammoth (Jarkov Mammoth) from the Siberian tundra to a lab in Khatanga, Taymyr, where scientists hoped to study the find and perhaps attempt to clone it. The weight was reportedly so great that the Mi-26 had to be returned to the factory immediately thereafter to check for airframe and rotor warping caused by the potential of structural over-stressing from such a heavy load.[4]

Afghanistan Chinook Recovery[edit]

In the spring of 2002, a civilian Mi-26 was leased to recover two U.S. Army MH-47E Chinook helicopters from a mountain in Afghanistan. The Chinooks, operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, had been employed in Operation Anaconda, an effort to drive al Qaeda and Taliban fighters out of the Shahi-Kot Valley and surrounding mountains. They ended up stranded on the slopes above Sirkhankel at altitudes of 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) and 3,100 metres (10,200 ft). While the second was too badly damaged to recover, the first was determined to be repairable and estimated to weigh 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb) with fuel, rotors, and non-essential equipment removed. That weight exceeded the maximum payload of 9,100 kilograms (20,100 lb) at an altitude of 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) of the U.S. military's Sikorsky CH-53E.[4]

The Mi-26 was located through Skylink Aviation in Toronto, which had connections with a Russian company called Sportsflite that operated three civilian Mi-26 versions called "Heavycopters". One of the aircraft, doing construction and firefighting work in neighboring Tajikistan, was leased for $300,000; it lifted the Chinook with a hook and flew it to Kabul, then later to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan to ship to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, U.S. for repairs. Six months later, a second U.S. Army CH-47 that had made a hard landing 100 miles (160 km) north of Bagram at an altitude of 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) was recovered by another Sportsflite-operated Mi-26 Heavycopter.[4]

Chechnya Crash[edit]

A Mexican Air Force Mil Mi-26 being loaded at Santa Lucía Air Force Base, Mexico

On 19 August 2002, Chechen separatists hit an overloaded Mi-26 with a surface-to-air missile, causing it to crash-land in a minefield and killing 127 of the people on board.[20]

China, Wenchuan "Quake Lake" emergency[edit]

As a result of the magnitude 8.0 earthquake in Sichuan province of China on 12 May 2008, many rivers became blocked by giant landslides, resulting in the formation of so-called quake lakes: massive amounts of water pooling up at a very high rate behind the landslide-formed dams, which eventually crumble under the weight of the ever-increasing water mass,[21] and potentially endangering the lives of millions downstream. At least one Mi-26 belonging to a branch of China's civil aviation service was used to bring heavy earthmoving tractors to the most precarious of the quake-lakes at Tangjiashan mountain, located in extremely difficult terrain and accessible only by foot or air.[22]

Afghanistan Helicopter Downing[edit]

In July 2009, a Moldovan Mi-26 was shot down in Helmand province with the loss of six Ukrainian crew members. The aircraft, belonging to Pecotox Air, was said to be on a humanitarian mission under NATO contract.[23]

Indian Air Force Mi-26 Crash[edit]

On 14 December 2010, an Indian Air Force Mi-26 crashed seconds after taking off from Jammu Airport, injuring all nine passengers. The aircraft fell from an altitude of about 50 feet (15 m).[24] The Indian Institute of Flight Safety released an investigation report that stated improper fastening of the truck inside caused an imbalance of the helicopter and led to the crash. The Mi-26 had been carrying machines from Konkan Railway to Kashmir Railway project.[25][26]

Norwegian Air Force Sea King Recovery[edit]

On 11 December 2012, a Westland Sea King from No. 330 Squadron RNoAF experienced undisclosed technical issues and made an emergency landing on Mount Divgagáisá. The landing caused parts of the landing gear to break. The Sea King was prepared by removing rotor blades and fuel before it was air lifted to Banak Air Station by a Russian Mil Mi-26 on 23 December 2012.[27]


A Mi-26TC in firefighting role over Athens
Mil-26 cargo bay
Prototype version.
Military cargo/freight transport version. NATO name: 'Halo-A'.
Upgraded version with an upgraded flight/navigation system.
Upgraded version of the Mi-26; designed for better performance.
Aeromedical evacuation version.
Anti-submarine warfare version.
Passenger transport version, with accommodation for 63 passengers.
Radio relay version.
Flying crane helicopter.
Disaster relief version.
Civil cargo/freight transport version.
Cargo transport version.
Flying crane helicopter.
Fire-fighting version.
Export version of the Mi-26T.
Fuel tanker version.
Improved version of the Mi-26T equipped with BREO-26 airborne electronic system, allowing it to fly any time, day or night, under good and bad weather conditions. Serial production began on May 22, 2015.[28]
Proposed airborne command post variant; two prototypes built.


Military operators[edit]

A Rostvertol Mil Mi-26T2 flight demonstration
Russian Air Force Mi-26 on lift off
 Democratic Republic of the Congo
 Equatorial Guinea
 North Korea

Civil operators[edit]

 United Nations

Former operators[edit]


Specifications (Mi-26)[edit]

Mil Mi-26 3-view drawing

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 2003–2004[38]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Five: 2 pilots, 1 navigator, 1 flight engineer, 1 flight technician
  • Capacity:
    • 90 troops or 60 stretchers
    • 20,000 kg cargo (44,090 lb)
  • Length: 40.025 m (131 ft 3¾ in) (rotors turning)
  • Rotor diameter: 32.00 m (105 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 8.145 m (26 ft 8¾ in)
  • Disc area: 804.25 m2 (8,656.8 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 28,200 kg (62,170 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 49,600 kg (109,350 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 56,000 kg (123,450 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Lotarev D-136 turboshafts, 8,500 kW (11,399 shp) each
  • Main rotor RPM: 132


See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ Number of Mi-26 built
  2. ^ a b Gordon, Yefim; Dmitry and Sergey Komissarov (2005). Mil's Heavylift Helicopters. Hinkley: Midland Publishing. pp. 75–96. ISBN 1 85780 206 3. 
  3. ^ a b Donald, David, ed. (1997). The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books. p. 640. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d Croft, John (July 2006). "We Haul It All". Air & Space 21 (2): 28–33. 
  5. ^ Jackson 2003, p. 392.
  6. ^ Watkinson, John. "Art of the Helicopter" p171. Butterworth-Heinemann, 28 January 2004. ISBN 0750657154, 9780750657150. Retrieved: 5 August 2012.
  7. ^ a b Lev I. Chaiko (1990) Review of the Transmissions of the Soviet Helicopters pages 2, 3, 9. Glenn Research Center/NASA Technical Memorandum 10363
  8. ^ Split Torque Gearboxes: Requirements, Performance and Applications
  9. ^ Smirnov, G. "Multiple-Power-Path Nonplanetary Main Gearbox of the Mi-26 Heavy-Lift Transport Helicopter", Vertiflite March/April 1990, pp. 20–23
  10. ^ Parker, Andrew. "CH-53K King Stallion Inches Closer to Sunrise" Aviation Today, 6 May 2014. Accessed: 7 May 2014.
  11. ^ "FAI Record ID #9936 - Helicopters, Greatest mass carried to height of 2 000 m" Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Record date 3 February 1982. Accessed: 29 November 2013.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Russian Air Force takes delivery of two new Mi-26 Halos". Air Forces Monthly (286): 28. January 2012. 
  14. ^ "Mi-26T2 production kicks off". Take Off, 2014.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "New Engines For Russia’s Heavy-lift Helicopter". Aviation International News. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  17. ^ Dr. Fedotov, V.A. "BURAN Orbital Spaceship Airframe Creation". Buran Energia. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  18. ^ [1] [2] Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
  19. ^ Masharovsky, Maj.Gen. M. (October 1998). "Operation of Helicopters During the Chernobyl Accident" (PDF). NATO. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  20. ^ BBC news article, 29 April 2004.
  21. ^ Swollen lake tops China's quake relief agenda, draining, evacuation side by side. Xinhua, 2008-05-28.
  22. ^ Copters take off to large Sichuan "quake lake"., 2008-05-24.
  23. ^ "Six Ukrainians die in Afghan chopper crash". Television New Zealand. Reuters. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  24. ^ "IAF chopper crashes in Jammu, 9 injured". The Times of India. 15 December 2010. 
  25. ^ "IAF helicopter crashes in Jammu, all safe". NDTV, 14 December 2010. Retrieved: 23 July 2012.
  26. ^ "IAF Chopper Crashes, Leaves 9 Injured". Outlook India, 14 December 2010. Retrieved: 23 July 2012.
  27. ^ NRK. "Gigahelikopter skal redde Sea King". NRK. 
  28. ^ "ТАСС: Армия и ОПК - "Вертолеты России" начали серийное производство тяжелого Ми-26Т2". ТАСС. 
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  30. ^ a b "World Air Forces 2008". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  31. ^ a b c "WORLD AIR FORCES 2011/12" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  32. ^ "Ejercito del Peru Mi-26 Halo". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  33. ^ Mladenov Air International May 2011, p. 112.
  34. ^ "Skytech Fleet". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  35. ^ "UT air Mil Mi-26". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Aeroflot Mil-Mi-26". Demand media. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  37. ^ "World's Air Forces 1987 pg. 85". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  38. ^ Jackson 2003, pp. 393–394.
  • Croft, John (July 2006). "We Haul It All". Air & Space 21 (2): 28–33. 
  • Donald, David, ed. (1997). The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books. p. 640. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5. 
  • Gordon, Yefim; Dmitry and Sergey Komissarov (2005). Mil's Heavylift Helicopters. Hinkley: Midland Publishing. pp. 75–96. ISBN 1 85780 206 3. 
  • Jackson, Paul (2003). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5. 
  • Mladenov, Alexander (May 2011). "Fighting Terrorism & Enforcing the Law in Russia". Air International. Vol. 80 no. 5. pp. 108–114. ISSN 0306-5634. 

External links[edit]