Moldovan authorities have shuttered a clandestine facility located in the country’s east, after searches revealed it to be churning out fake copies of the Soviet-type Kamov Ka-26 helicopter.
On Tuesday, the Moldovan Prosecutor’s Office – together with investigators from the Police General Inspectorate – carried out raids on the factory, 100 kilometres north-east of the Moldovan capital Chișinău.
“Over the past several months, the police documented the illegal activity of a well-organised group of people specialising in the production of helicopters,” said the Interior Ministry in a press release.
It adds that more than 10 helicopters were seized in total, at various stages of production. The ministry also stated that the helicopters were being prepared for export to other nations spread across the former Soviet bloc – though it didn’t specify which.
All helicopters produced lacked necessary permits and documents of origin, and were assembled from non-source components.
Most of the people suspected of being involved in the production and assembly process, including the organisers and heads of the illegal operation, are residents of Moldova’s breakaway Transnistrian region. Those accused face penalties ranging from three to 10 years.
The Kamov Ka-26 was first successfully tested in 18 August 1965, and entered service soon after as a Soviet light utility helicopter with co-axial rotors.
Advances in technology have seen the model become outdated, with limited military and commercial relevance today. However, it remains a popular choice for crop-dusting, given the unique design and twin coaxial rotors help spread the helicopter’s downdraft.