In what could significantly bolster its combat capability, Russian troops in southern Ukraine have been reinforced with upgraded Ka-52 attack helicopters carrying long-range anti-tank missiles.
The official Twitter account of the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) posted the latest intelligence update on July 27.
According to the update, the Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopter has emerged among the region’s most important Russian weapon systems as Ukrainian forces continue to wage significant offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
According to UK intelligence, Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters, which have previously caused major losses for Ukraine, have recently been employed by Russia to bolster its forces in southern Ukraine. The update also states that Russia has probably lost 40 or more Ka-52s since the beginning of the invasion.
“Russia has highly likely lost around forty Ka-52s since the invasion, but the type has also imposed a heavy cost on Ukraine.”
The UK intelligence claims come a month after the UK MoD said that the helicopters’ long-range missiles gave Russia a “temporary advantage” in southern Ukraine.
According to Oryx, a Dutch open-source intelligence (OSINT) defense analysis website, the Russians have lost about 39 Ka-52 ‘Alligator’ attack helicopters. Out of these, at least one was destroyed in a non-combat incident. The data compiled by this OSINT website is based on visual evidence.
Reports of a Ka-52 being shot down by a Stugna surfaced on social media on July 26, along with a video that shortly went viral. According to these claims, the helicopter was shot down somewhere in Donbas without survivors. EurAsian Times could not independently verify these claims.
Ukraine shot down another Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter in the Donbas today.
There were no survivors among the crew. pic.twitter.com/yPPqGijhmZ
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) July 25, 2023
In the ongoing war, the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter has been extensively deployed along the frontlines, mainly to thwart the advance of Ukrainian tanks and armored vehicles, as seen in the recent Ukrainian counteroffensive.
As previously discussed in detail by the EurAsian Times, the Russians used well-laid-out minefields, remote mining equipment, and the use of the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter to halt the advance of the Ukrainian troops vying to recapture territory.
Ka-52 kills a Ukrainian Bradley pic.twitter.com/VDioGGzrAA
— cvetko35 (@cvetko35) July 23, 2023
Ka-52s have been spotted escorting Russian convoys, assisting airborne soldiers, and carrying out operations in Ukraine-controlled territory. However, the Ka-52 has been deployed for conducting missions against Ukraine more than any other attack helicopter in the Russian inventory.
In a departure from its usual practice of downplaying the lethality of a Russian weapon system, the Ukrainian officials have also recently expressed concerns about the Ka-52’s destructiveness, based on the burned-out wreckage of Ukrainian armored vehicles dispersed around the battlefield.
Why Is Upgraded Ka-52 A Problem For Ukraine?
The British intelligence update asserts that Russia has most likely added a few brand-new Ka-52M types to the force in the south. These aircraft have undergone significant modifications due to Russia’s experience in Syria, which is the case with several other systems that have received upgrades.
In 2015, Ka-52 helicopters were allegedly deployed to support Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian Civil War. At the time, several sources stated they were engaged in defending the Russian base in Latakia, escorting search and rescue helicopters, and assisting Moscow’s special forces.
To support its claims about the helicopter’s deployment in southern Ukraine, the UK intelligence updates states that the “Evidence supporting the M variant’s use in Ukraine includes photos posted on social media of aircrew posing next to the new aircraft and thanking well-wishers for sending them morale items.”
The Ka-52M in question was visible in three images published by the typically knowledgeable Fighterbomber Telegram channel. Photos from July 14 show airmen displaying some of the gadgets they received next to the new Ka-52. The helicopter in the Fighterbomber images has new paint, suggesting it was just delivered.
The intelligence update lists some particular enhancements that the helicopter has received, including adding a new anti-tank missile, the LMUR, with a 15 kilometers range.
It goes on to state that Ka-52 crews have seized opportunities to fire these weapons with speed outside the range of Ukrainian air defenses.
The enhanced range of the helicopters would mean that they could attack the hostile tanks and armored vehicles while avoiding the risk of being struck by a Ukrainian MANPAD. This could ultimately lead to cutting down on the losses of the helicopter, although an actual picture would emerge eventually.
The helicopter crew “have been quick to exploit opportunities to launch these weapons beyond the range of Ukrainian air defenses,” the British intelligence update said, without specifying if the missiles have been added to the modified helicopters or the original versions.
The helicopter typically carries missiles honed for attacking armor, ground targets, or both. You can read more about the missiles employed by the helicopter in an analytical piece written by EurAsian Times here.
In September 2022, the state-run TASS news agency in Russia reported on “successful tests of this modernized helicopter during the special operation in Ukraine.” The report stated that the upgraded Ka-52M helicopter includes longer-range missiles and a new phased array radar station.
Moreover, KA-52M has a longer-range gyro-stabilized optoelectronic target acquisition and identification system, a new digital drive to improve the gun’s aiming accuracy, new chassis wheels with disc brake gear, and improved wear-resistance aircraft tires. The modified rotorcraft is outfitted with the VK-2500 engine.
The Ka-52 can be deployed where it is most required, thanks to its network-centric capabilities and high bandwidth transmission. Additionally, it gives battlefield managers quick feedback on the attack’s success. It explains why there are so many Ka-52 engagement videos online.
Russian helicopter Ka-52M hit valuable "NATO trophies" pic.twitter.com/YPDqBRTm1l
— Spriter Team (@SpriterTeam) July 23, 2023
These upgraded helicopters have been skillfully destroying approaching Ukrainian armor, as seen in several videos posted on social media frequently. They operate safely from locations outside the MANPAD range of advancing Ukrainian columns, as pointed out by military experts.
Moreover, they are covered from strikes by Ukrainian fighters by Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Su-35S and Su-30MS fighters, equipped with long-range RVV-BD missiles, which constantly patrol the front lines of conflict.
With the war not expected to abate any time soon, there is concern that deploying upgraded Russian attack helicopters with longer-range missiles could pose a big threat to Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which is already believed to have lost pace in recent days.
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