June 4, 2015: Strategy Page
In May 2015 Russian announced that production of an upgraded Mi-26 (Halo) transport helicopter has started. In 2011 the new model, the Mi-26T2, made its first flight and Russia began looking for export customers. In 2014 Algeria agreed to buy six of them. Earlier the Russian Air Force ordered 22 Mi-26T2s and paid to have twenty older Mi-26s upgraded to the Mi-26T2 standard. In 2010 China agreed to build the Mi-26 under license but that project is stalled.
The original 49 ton Mi-26 entered service in 1983 and production continued into the 1990s, with 322 built for military and commercial customers. This model could haul 20 tons 550 kilometers or 15 tons for 900 kilometers. The Mi-26 can also carry up to 60 troops or 30 stretchers. The Mi-26T2 weighs 56 tons and has about 25 percent better performance than the original Mi-26 as well as being more reliable.
The Mi-26 is similar to the American CH-53E and the Mi-26T2 is more like CH-53K. The CH-53 is a contemporary of the original Mi-26 and used mainly by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The new CH-53K is 16 percent heavier (at 42.3 tons) than the current CH-53E and able to carry nearly twice as much (13.5 tons). The CH-53K will be much easier to maintain and cost about half as much per flight hour to operate. Thus, the CH-53 can haul cargo at half the cost but at half the speed. Russia has similar goals with the Mi-26 and Mi-26T2.