Naval Air: Russians Put Attack Helicopters On Carriers

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September 18, 2011: Russia announced that the first test batch of its Ka-52K navalized helicopter will be built next year. Mass production will begin in three years. The “K” model will serve on the Mistral class amphibious ships Russia is buying from France. In addition to being equipped with coatings to resist sea water corrosion, the K model will also have a light weight version of the high-definition Zhuk-AE AESA radar used on jet fighters. This radar currently weighs 275 kg (605 pounds), but the helicopter version will weigh only 80 kg (176 pounds) and enable the Kh-52K to use the Kh-31 anti-ship missile. This weapon has a range of 110 kilometers and travels at high speed (about one kilometer a second.) The Kh-52K can also carry the sub-sonic Kh-31 missile, which has a range of 130 kilometers. Both of these missiles weigh about 600 kg (1,300 pounds).

The Indians evaluated the Zhuk-AE radar and were not impressed, but the manufacturer has assured the Russian Navy that the helicopter version will perform as needed, and have a range of over 200 kilometers. Whichever radar the Ka-52 scout helicopters have, it provides an all-weather targeting system.

The Ka-52 is actually a Ka-50 variant, nicknamed the Alligator. The Russian army has bought over 40 Ka-50 helicopter gunships so far. Some have seen action in Chechnya. The Ka-50 is not considered a replacement for the larger Mi-24 gunship, but rather serves as a scout helicopter. The Ka-50 weighs 11 tons, has a top speed of 350 kilometers an hour and can carry up to two tons of weapons or additional fuel. Normal operating range is 260 kilometers, but with additional fuel tanks, it can stay in the air for up to four hours.

Ka-52 variant has two seats, so that a commander can be carried. Normally, the Ka-50 operates with one pilot. Weapons carried include 30mm or 23mm automatic cannon, plus bombs, missiles and rockets.

Despite its designation as a scout helicopter, the Ka-50 is similar to the U.S. AH64 Apache, which weighs ten tons and can carry about the same amount of weapons. However, the AH-64 has a lower max speed (300 kilometers an hour) and has a two man crew. Developed a decade before the Ka-50, there are over a thousand AH-64s in service. To deal with this, the Ka-52 sells for a third or more less than a comparable model of the AH-64. U.S. scout helicopters weigh less than three tons, but the Russians expect their scouts to do more fighting.

The Ka-52K enables the Mistral amphibious carriers to defend themselves, to some extent. Against large warships with anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, the Ka-52K would just slow down the destruction of the Russian Mistrals. But the Russians don’t expect to send their Mistrals against major naval opposition, but smaller nuisances in their own back yard.

 

 


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