Whether it be an army contingent or an entire airplane, the gigantic Mil Mi-26 can lift huge payloads into the air and carry them to their destination. Despite its suitability for militaristic use, it is also used for other purposes such as medical evacuation and transport of commercial goods. Unsurprisingly, it is the world’s biggest and most powerful mass-produced helicopter.
This Russian-made aircraft, codename “Halo,” is a heavy transport helicopter first developed during the USSR era. Its maiden test flight took place in late 1977, whereas the first production unit emerged in 1980. Not long after, it entered service with the Soviet military and commercial services in 1985.
This awe-inspiring vehicle is designed by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and manufactured by Rostvertol. As of 2015’s records, it has 316 units in operation around the world. Here’s a video compilation showing the sheer power and ability of a Mi-26 helicopter.
There have been as many as 14 official variants of the Mi-26 helicopter. Some notable ones include Mi-26M, Mi-26S, Mi-26T2, and Mi-26T2V — the most advanced variant till now. Besides Russia, there are several other countries which boast of the Mi-26. These nations include India, China, Belgium, North Korea, Mexico, Algeria, Jordan, the DRC, etc.
With Great Size, Come Great Capabilities
The Mi-26 is a goliath among other aircraft. At 40m (131ft)-long, it is longer than 3 passenger buses put in a queue. With the weighing scale hitting 28,200kg or 62,170lbs, it is as heavy as 7 Asian elephants put together. Thanks to its absolutely wild dimensions, the helicopter has been used to pick up a range of heavy stuff, from another helicopter to a frozen Woolly Mammoth fossil.
The giant helicopter’s payload capacity of 20,000kg is one of its prime attributes. Alternatively, it can house a total of 90 military personnel. In the air, Mi-26 has a cruise speed of 255kmph or 158mph and can reach speeds of 295kmph or 183mph. Moreover, it can hover reasonably high above the ground, up to 4,600m or 15,100ft.
Apart from the payload, it also lifts the weight of 12,000l of fuel that takes its maximum takeoff weight all the way up to 56,000kg (123,459lbs). This notable capability is down to the power of its 8 main rotor blades, 5 tail rotor blades, and twin turboshaft engines (8,380kW each).
Keeping these physical aspects aside, Mi-26 also shines on the technological side. That’s because it comes with a weather radar, an integrated flight navigation system, GPS, infrared jammers, automatic flight control system, map display, and more.
There’s no denying that Russia owns arguably the best heavy transport helicopter in the Mi-26. But, when it comes to fighter planes, eternal rival U.S. flexes its muscles with the Lockheed Martin F-35.