Wow: Russia Once Made A 196 Passenger Capacity Helicopter

The Soviet Union’s Mil V-12 outstandingly had an empty weight of 152,339 lb and was built to carry 196 passengers. Today, it still holds the record of being the largest helicopter ever built.

Mil V-12
The Mil V-12 holds an impressive length of 37 meters, a wingspan of 67 meters, and a height of 12.5 meters. Photo: Getty Images

Extreme measures

The United States Marine Corps introduced the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion in 1981. This massive helicopter was designed to fit up to 55 passengers on board. However, the aircraft is towered by a Soviet production that was on display at the Paris Air Show ten years earlier.

NATO gave the behemoth the reporting name of Homer, and the development of the project started during the intensities of the Cold War under the title of Izdeliye 65. Military Factory reports that the unit had an unsuccessful lift off in June 1967. However, the first successful test flight came in the following year. There was plenty of potential with the helicopter, but the project was scrapped by 1974. This decision came after the completion of two prototypes.

There was certainly cause to be excited with the prospects of Homer. Along with its size, its specifications across the board were something to watch out for. For instance, the helicopter’s four Soloviev D-25VF turboshafts each produced 6,500 shaft horsepower. This energy drove the aircraft’s twin 35-meter-diameter main rotor blades.

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Additionally, the Mil V-12 could reach a speed of up to 162 mph (260 km/h). Along with this, it would have a cruise speed of 150 mph (241 km/h), and a ferry range out to 620 miles (998 km). It also had a service ceiling of up to 11,500 feet (3505 m), along with a combat range of 310 miles (499 km). The below video from Mustard explores the capabilities of the helicopter.

Could have been a game-changer

Tensions were flying between the Soviet Union and the US during this period. Therefore, the government was looking to hold the most powerful vehicles to help with defense efforts if called upon.

The military was hoping to use these helicopters to transport soldiers, equipment, and supplies. Notably, Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would have been moved on these helicopters.

Mil V-12 Helicopter
The aircraft was designed to have a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 231,485 lb. Photo: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

Revised strategy

The Mil Design Bureau designed the cargo hold to closely match that of the famous Antonov An-22 strategic airlifter. Altogether, Homer would hold 88,000 lb of goods under maximum loads.

Despite its impressive stature and abilities, the project fell victim to a change of strategy for the Soviet Union. From the end of the 1960s and much of the 1970s, the Cold War was going through a period détente, which saw tensions ease in some ways. Subsequently, those overseeing the V-12 could not justify its role during this time.

Mil V-12 Prototype
A prototype has been sitting on display at Monino, Moscow since 1975. Photo: Clemens Vasters via Wikimedia Commons

The helicopter was then under consideration to be deployed for commercial usage. However, these plans were also put on the back burner. Therefore, the project was canceled. In 1983, the military introduced the Mil Mi-26 (Halo) to serve as a heavy lifter. Nonetheless, it would have been quite a sight to see the V-12 in the skies!

What are your thoughts about the largest helicopter ever built? What do you make of the size of the unit? Let us know what you think of the Mil V-12 in the comment section.