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AVICopter AC332 (Advanced Heavy Lifter - AHL)

Heavy-Lift / High-Altitude Transport Helicopter


The proposed joint Chinese-Russian AHL would become one of the largest operating helicopters anywhere in the world if the product sees completion.

Detailing the development and operational history of the AVICopter AC332 (Advanced Heavy Lifter - AHL) Heavy-Lift / High-Altitude Transport Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 5/15/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Chinese and Russians have entered into a joint design partnership to produce an all-new very-high-altitude, heavy-lift helicopter. The requested maximum speed is set at 186 miles per hour with a range out to 390 miles. More importantly, engineers have been given the challenge of designing the aircraft with a service ceiling up to 18,696 feet (5,700 meters) capable of reaching the highest points of the rugged Chinese countryside. Gross weight is estimated at 84,200 pounds with possible seating for some sixty passengers. At present, this rotorcraft would be dimensionally smaller than the mammoth Russian Mil Mi-26 "Halo" heavy hauler but larger (and twice as heavy) as the American Boeing CH-47F "Chinook" tandem rotor system of the U.S. military. The Mi-26 is currently the largest helicopter in service anywhere in the world with operators in Russia, India and the Ukraine (among others).

AviCopter of China is heading the Chinese side of the development with the project name being "Advanced Heavy Lifter" (HAL) and its in-service designation becoming "AC332" (formally the "AC3X2"). An early design effort was showcased in September 2015 during the China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin. The AHL effort is being largely funded by China.

A typical medium-lift helicopter can hover between 10,500 and 14,000 feet maximum before the engine's ability to breath the thinner air restricts further climbing (forward flight reveals a maximum altitude nearer 25,000 feet). In June of 1972, a specially-modified high-altitude Aerospatiale "Lama" helicopter lightweight helicopter achieved 40,814 feet to set a new absolute altitude record. However, the engine flamed out and forced an autorotation landing by the pilot (Jean Boulet of France). With that landing the helicopter also set the world record for longest autorotation period.

China has a history of operating and building both Soviet/Russian and, more recently, French helicopters. With this knowledge, and that offered by Russian engineers, the AC332 is set to take on a most sleek, modern appearance. The main rotor blades, set low over the engine pairing, showcases seven composite blades with swept tips for reduced vibration and drag. The AHL may be outfitted with Russian-originated powerplants of AVIC of China cannot come through with an indigenous offering(the AVIC WZ-20 of 8,000 horsepower output - two would be fitted). The tail-rotor, set along the starboard side of the tail fin, holds a five-bladed rotor system. Despite a separate design phase, the two countries are set to combine this early work to generate the final product.

The Russian design being offered appears as an offshoot of its Mil Mi-26 complete with a twin-engine configuration, seven-bladed main rotor and five-bladed tail rotor set to starboard along the single tail fin featured. Its form largely mimics the in-service heavy-lifter.

Both versions sport a three-point wheeled undercarriage with retractable functionality. Lift capabilities are to be consistent with heavy-lift types for service in civilian sectors (SAR, firefighting, etc...), the construction industry and (possibly) military with an under-slung capability in moving palletized supplies, artillery systems or whole armored vehicles to generally unreachable areas of the world. Additionally, light-class vehicles would fit within the primary hold of the large helicopter.


YEAR: 2023
STATUS: In-Development
MANUFACTURER(S): AVICopter - China / Russian Helicopters; Mil - Russia
LENGTH: 118.11 ft (36 m)
WIDTH: 91.86 ft (28 m)
HEIGHT: 26.74 ft (8.15 m)
MTOW: 88,185 lb (40,000 kg)
POWER: POSSIBLE: 2 x AVIC WZ-20 turboshaft engines developing 8,000 horsepower each and driving seven-bladed main rotor with five-bladed tail rotor.
SPEED: 186 mph (300 kph; 162 kts)
CEILING: 18,701 feet (5,700 m; 3.54 miles)
RANGE: 391 miles (630 km; 340 nm)
OPERATORS: China (probable); Russia (possible)

None. Mission capability for sixty passengers in cabin. Also light-class vehicles in hold (in lieu of passengers). Underslung loads consisting of pallets, artillery pieces and armored vehicles.
Variants / Models

• Advanced Heavy Lifter (AHL) - Project Name
• AC332 - Proposed Designation for production form.

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (186mph).

Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the AVICopter AC332 (Advanced Heavy Lifter - AHL)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production (0)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
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Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
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Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
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Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
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Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
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Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
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Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
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Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
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* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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