Russia’s prototype high speed helicopter, the Mi-24K, appears to have a series of aerodynamic modifications in the most recent images of the testbed airframe to appear online. The Mi-24K first flew in 2015 and is being used as a flying laboratory for the development of a new generation of high speed helicopters under the Russian Advanced Commercial Helicopter (RACHEL) programme. Testing of the airframe has been ongoing since 2016 and images of the helicopter since then have showed a variety of wing configurations. The most recent modifications appear to have taken the aerodynamics of the helicopter into careful consideration, with improvements seemingly designed to reduce drag. The photo, dating from October this year, shows the removal of external aerials and instrumentation; a smaller engine exhaust port; and a number of aerodynamic fairings covering protrusions on the aircraft’s skin. Russian media reported that the testbed airframe reached a top speed of 405 km/h in October 2016 and credited the speed to new composite rotor blades.
Russian Helicopters signed a two year development contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) in August 2017 during the Army 2017 showcase. The agreement promised the “formation of the concept of a high-speed combat helicopter” and will build on the development work carried out on the Mi-24K. “Both the Ministry of Defense and our holding believe the parameters received during the tests and the experience gained to be enough to move on to the next stage - the development of a high-speed combat helicopter.” Said Russian Helicopters CEO Andrey Boginsky. During an Air Force annual celebration last month, Oleg Chesnokov, commander of the combat training of the army aviation of the Air and Space Forces (VCS) explained to Russian media that the future platform will use lessons learned from the Mi-24K to develop a future platform “It will be a completely new aviation complex, not based on the Mi-24 helicopter” he said.
Whilst it is not clear how long the development project will take, the agreement between the MOD and Russian Helicopters aims to determine the requirements behind developing an entirely new aircraft. The recent improvements to the Mi-24K testbed airframe suggest that the two year assessment phase is underway and the particular platform will be integral to the work.
Credit to Oleg Podkladov and others at RussianPlanes.net for his great work in photographing the Mi-24K, see his work here.