The fourth edition of the Kazakhstan Defence Expo took place from the 2nd of June until the 5th of June on the military part of the airport of Astana, at the air base of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The expo and is an international exhibition of weapons systems and military equipment.
Kazakhstan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991 and is surrounded by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Nowadays, the city of Astana has a beautiful skyline with incredible buildings. But twenty years ago it was ‘just’ a city, called Akmola. Astana is the new capital since 1997 when Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev moved the capitol from Almaty to Astana. The Russian influence from the past is reflected by the type of aircraft and helicopters that are flying in Kazakhstan, both military and civil. But not widely known is the fact that European designed helicopters are manufactured in Kazakhstan. Since 2011, about twenty-six EC145, two H130 and one H125 were built at the Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering plant at the airport of Astana.
The Defence Expo was housed at the military part of the airport of Astana. With Kazakhstan in their backyard, Rosoboronexport (Russian Defence Export) was well represented at this edition with their own pavilion. The importance for the Russian Federation was also shown by the fact that president Putin visited KADEX. The display area was separated into two parts, one for the ground/sea forces with many trucks and tanks and other equipment and an aviation part for the aircraft and helicopters. However, one exception was made for a truck that was parked between the helicopters. Russian Helicopters showcased their mobile training simulator of the Mi-8MTV1 helicopter. This system was introduced at MAKS 2015. The upgraded simulator has its own electric power plant and can be used when there is no electricity available. The simulator allows the pilots to train for any weather condition and has real-life high definition terrain images and a motion system. Two more helicopter specialized simulator systems from other manufacturers where displayed as well during the exhibition.
Russian Helicopters announced that several memorandums of understanding were signed by the Committee for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and with other government structures of the Republic of Kazakhstan during KADEX 2016. According to the documents, Kazakhstan’s authorities are interested in helicopters for delivery between 2016 and 2020. About two hundred Russian built helicopters are currently registered in Kazakhstan. The new helicopters might include the Ka-226Ts, Mi-171A2s and Ansats. Russian Helicopters daily displayed a few helicopters with a flying display. A Mi-24 was one of the flying participants showcasing the Mi-35M as an export variant of the well known transport/attack helicopter with NATO reporting name HIND. An unknown number of Mi-35M helicopters were purchased by the Kazakhstan Armed Forces at KADEX. Kazan Helicopters was present with a factory owned Mi-17MTV-5
Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering also signed Memoranda of intensions with KazMedAir for the delivery of 18 EC130 helicopters and with representatives of the Akimat of East Kazakhstan Region for the delivery of seven EC125 helicopters. The company also signed for the maintenance of the EC145 fleet of the Kazaviaspas.
Airbus Group was present with a large booth inside one of the pavilions and had a H125 Ecureuil on static display on the tarmac. Sikorsky was also present, but with a small booth promoting the Sikorsky S-70i Black hawk, and did not participate with one of their helicopters. Leonardo-Finmeccanica presented their product range and the company participated on static display with a Russian registered AW119 MkII.
Motor Sich JSC, a Ukrainian firm, presented engines at their booth and flew daily with an upgraded Mi-8MSB. After their display the Mi-8 helicopter climbed to an altitude of 7000 meters, creating contrails high in the sky, a sight not often seen with a helicopter!
Bird Aerosystems, together with KAI (a subsidiary of Kazakhstan Engineering), displayed their AISO Special Mission System mounted on an EC145 from the Kazakhstan Armed Forces. AISO stands for Airborne Surveillance, Intelligence and Observation and the system can be used for a wide variety of missions; from oil/gas pipeline surveillance, Search and Rescue operations and homeland protection missions. A mission management system, the MSIS (Multi Sensor Integration System) was placed in the cabin of the EC145.
The largest helicopter currently in the world, the Mi-26 was on static display as well. In October 2013 the Kazaviaspas, the air rescue division of the Kazakhstan Emergencies Ministry, received the first of two modified Mi-26T heavy transport helicopters. The two helicopters were previously in storage for 20 years and received their overhaul and modifications at Novosibirsk Aircraft Repair Plant, Russian Federation. The helicopters arrived there in May 2012 after a more then 2.000 Kilometres journey in the external sling of an Mi-26T and it was actually the first time that the plant had repaired and modified airframes that had not been in service for twenty years. Nowadays the helicopters are used for a variety of missions, including evacuations. A mix of Mi-171, Mi-171E, Mi-17V5, Kamov-32A11BC and EC145s could be seen on the ground or in the air during the event.