Military Wiki
Russian Air Force Mi-26
Role Heavy lift cargo helicopter
National origin Soviet Union/Russia
Manufacturer 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

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

Design and development

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 Izdeliye 90 ("Project 90")[1] and later allocated designation Mi-26. The new design was required to have an empty weight less than half its maximum takeoff weight.[2] The helicopter was designed by Marat Tishchenko, protégé of Mikhail Mil, founder of the OKB-329 design bureau.[3]

The Mi-26 was designed as a heavy-lift helicopter for military and civil use, and was to replace earlier Mi-6 and Mi-12 heavy lift helicopters, with twice the cabin space and payload of the Mi-6, then the world's largest and fastest production helicopter. The primary purpose was to move military equipment like 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[4] and the first production aircraft was rolled out on 4 October 1980.[1] Development was completed in 1983, and the Mi-26 was in Soviet military and commercial service by 1985.[2]

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.[5]

The Mi-26's unique main gearbox is relatively light but can absorb 19,725 shp, which was accomplished using a non-planetary, split-torque design. Because Mil's normal gearbox supplier said that such a gearbox could not be designed, the Mil Design Bureau designed the VR-26 transmission itself.[6] In July 2010 a proposed Russian-Chinese development of a 33-ton heavy-lift helicopter was announced.[7]

The Russian helicopter manufacturer, Rostvertol, 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 number around 20 helicopters. Refurbished and upgraded aircraft will be comparable to an up-to-date variant: Mi-26T. Contract completion is planned for 2015. The same contract covers the manufacture of 22 brand new Mi-26T helicopters. As of January 2012, eight new-production helicopters have been delivered to operational units.[8]

Operational history

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

Buran programme

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.[9]

Chernobyl accident

The Mi-26S was a disaster response version hastily developed after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.[10] 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.[11]

World Team skydiving

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.

Siberian Woolly Mammoth recovery

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 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 potential structural over-stressing.[3]

Afghanistan Chinook recovery

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.[3]

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 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.[3]

Chechnya crash

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.[12]

China, Wenchuan "Quake Lake" emergency

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,[13] 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.[14]

Afghanistan helicopter downing

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 Pectox-Air aviation, was said to be on a humanitarian mission under NATO contract.[15]

Indian Air Force Mi-26 crash

On 14 December 2010, an Indian Air Force Mi-26 crashed seconds after taking off from Jammu Airport, injuring all 9 passengers. The aircraft fell from an altitude of about 50 feet (15 m).[16] 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 .[17][18]

Norwegian Air Force Sea King recovery

On 11 December 2012, a Westland Sea King from No. 330 Squadron RNoAF experienced "technical problems" 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.[19]

Rescue operations in Uttarakhand Floods - India 2013

Mi-26 is extensively used in the rescue operations of Uttarakhand floods affecting the northern part of India in 2013. Airlifting heavy equipments for repairing and re-establishing roads and connectivity. Further many flood affected victims were airlifted using Mi-26.[citation needed]


A Mi-26TC in firefighting role over Athens

Mil-26 cockpit

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.
Proposed airborne command post variant; two prototypes built.


Military operators

Mi-26 at the Kiev Aviation museum

Mil Mi-26 at Monino Museum (Moscow), 2006

Mi-26T at Zhukovski, 1997

Mi-26 Russian Air Force, 2012

 Democratic Republic of the Congo
 North Korea

Civil operators


Former operators


Specifications (Mi-26)

Mil Mi-26 3-view drawing

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004[32]

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


  • Maximum speed: 295 km/h (159 kt, 183 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 255 km/h (137 kt, 158 mph)
  • Range: 1,920 km (1,036 nmi, 1,190 mi)(with auxiliary tanks)
  • Service ceiling: 4,600 m (15,100 ft)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Gordon, Yefim; Dmitry and Sergey Komissarov (2005). Mil's Heavylift Helicopters. Hinkley: Midland Publishing. pp. 75–96. ISBN 1 85780 206 3. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Donald, David, ed (1997). The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books. p. 640. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Croft, John (July 2006). "We Haul It All". pp. 28–33. 
  4. Jackson 2003, p. 392.
  5. Watkinson, John. "Art of the Helicopter" p171. Butterworth-Heinemann, 28 January 2004. ISBN 0750657154, 9780750657150 . Retrieved: 5 August 2012.
  6. Smirnov, G. "Multiple-Power-Path Nonplanetary Main Gearbox of the Mi-26 Heavy-Lift Transport Helicopter", Vertiflite March/April 1990, pp. 20–23
  8. "Russian Air Force takes delivery of two new Mi-26 Halos". January 2012. p. 28. 
  9. Dr. Fedotov, V.A.. "BURAN Orbital Spaceship Airframe Creation". Buran Energia. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  10. [1] [2] Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant
  11. Masharovsky, Maj.Gen. M. (October 1998). "Operation of Helicopters During the Chernobyl Accident". NATO.$MP-019-07.PDF. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  12. BBC news article, 29 April 2004.
  13. Swollen lake tops China's quake relief agenda, draining, evacuation side by side. Xinhua, 2008-05-28.
  14. Copters take off to large Sichuan "quake lake"., 2008-05-24.
  15. "Six Ukrainians die in Afghan chopper crash". Television New Zealand. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  16. "IAF chopper crashes in Jammu, 9 injured". The Times of India. 15 December 2010. 
  17. "IAF helicopter crashes in Jammu, all safe". NDTV, 14 December 2010. Retrieved: 23 July 2012.
  18. "IAF Chopper Crashes, Leaves 9 Injured". Outlook India, 14 December 2010. Retrieved: 23 July 2012.
  19. "Redningsaksjon utsettes til søndag"
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "World Air Forces 2008". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "WORLD AIR FORCES 2011/12". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  23. "Indian Mil mi-26". Demand media. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  24. "Kazakhstan Mi-26". Demand media. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  25. "Ejercito del Peru Mi-26 Halo". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  26. "Ukraine Air Force Mil mi-26". Demand Media. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  27. "Skytech Fleet". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  28. "UT air Mil Mi-26". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  29. "Heliswiss Fleet". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  30. "Aeroflot Mil-Mi-26". Demand media. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  31. "World's Air Forces 1987 pg. 85". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  32. Jackson 2003, pp. 393–394.
  • Gordon, Yefim; Dmitry and Sergey Komissarov (2005). Mil's Heavylift Helicopters. Hinkley: Midland Publishing. pp. 75–96. ISBN 1 85780 206 3. 
  • Croft, John (July 2006). "We Haul It All". pp. 28–33. 
  • Jackson, Paul (2003). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5. 
  • Donald, David, ed (1997). The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books. p. 640. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5. 
  • Croft, John (July 2006). "We Haul It All". pp. 28–33. 

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