Ka-52 Helicopters ‘Hog Limelight’ At Chinese Airshow; UK MoD Says Russia Lost 25% Of Its Fleet In Ukraine War

China’s biggest airshow, currently underway in Zhuhai, is giving the world a look at Beijing’s state-of-the-art military technology. At the same time, the exhibition offers global military firms a platform to showcase their innovations and attract new customers.

Russia, which is also showcasing a variety of armaments, disclosed that its combat helicopters, particularly the Ka-52, are attracting significant interest from participants and visitors. 

The Russian Embassy in China stated on November 11 that the attendees had expressed a ‘keen interest in the Russian combat helicopters displayed by the government-run arms dealer Rosoboronexport. 

The embassy noted that in addition to the Ka-52, other Russian combat helicopters, such as the Mi-28NE and Mi-171Sh rotorcraft, had drawn attention in the exhibition due to their impressive fighting prowess in actual combat situations. 

Rosoboronexport is displaying a wide variety of Russian military aircraft at its booth at Airshow China 2022, including the Su-57E fifth-generation fighter, the Su-35 multirole fighter aircraft, the Su-34E fighter-bomber, and the MiG-35 multirole fighter in single- and dual-pilot specifications. 

Ka-52 Alligator
File Image: Ka-52 Alligator

While Russia’s helicopter fleet has virtually remained unchanged since the Cold War’s end, the nation has taken significant steps to upgrade its helicopter force. A noteworthy inclusion was the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter. 

The aircraft went into service with the Russian armed forces in 2011. It is an updated two-seat variant of the Ka-50 Black Shark attack helicopter, unveiled in 1995 and known to NATO as the “Hokum B.” 

The Ka-52 can operate at a top speed of 186 mph and has a ceiling of 18,000 feet. Cockpit seats that are side by side and ejection seats for the pilots are some of its other remarkable features.

Its six wing-mounted hardpoints can hold more than 4,000 pounds of weapons, including rockets, missiles, or guns and ammunition. The right side of the fuselage has a 30mm autocannon. Some variants include a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera positioned on the nose.

The Ka-52 is available in different variants and is constantly being upgraded with new cameras, electronics, and cockpit and helmet configurations that work with night vision.

On October 28, state-run media outlet Tass reported that a new sighting system would improve the combat capabilities of the Ka-52 and allow the helicopter to employ weapons efficiently at night. 

Ka-52 Attack helicopters In Ukraine War

The battlefield performance of the Ka-52, which suffered heavy losses in the ongoing Ukraine War, directly contradicts Russia’s claims that the chopper can operate efficiently in modern war zones. 

In the early stages of the Russian aggression, Ka-52 attack helicopters stormed the Hostomel airport in an attempt to take control of the landing strip. However, the Russians eventually retreated from Hostomel Airport, and the attack inflicted an early and devastating setback to Russia’s elite VDV paratrooper corps. 

According to the Oryx, a team of experts tracking the destroyed weaponry in the Ukraine war based on visual evidence, Russia has so far lost 25 Ka-52 assault helicopters in its war on Ukraine.

Russia Ka-52 helicopter
Ka-52 reconnaissance attack helicopter during Russia’s “special military operation” in May 2022. MINISTRY OF DEFENSE OF RUSSIA

Likewise, the British Defense Ministry said that Moscow had lost a quarter of its operational fleet of Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters in the Ukraine war. The ministry noted that Russian combat helicopters have been particularly vulnerable to Ukrainian man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). 

Multiple videos of Ka-52 and other Russian helicopters being shot down have been widely shared on social media platforms. Nevertheless, the Russian government is still deploying this helicopter in Ukraine.

On November 10, the Russian MoD released a video of Russian Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopters “on the hunt” in Ukraine. The caption for the video read, “Crews of Ka-52 attack helicopters destroy strongholds and armored vehicles of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

According to the MoD, army aviation pilots fired missiles toward the strongholds of the Ukrainian Armed Forces units. The command post and armored vehicles of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were damaged during this operation. 

The MOD highlighted that army aviation is responsible for escorting columns, destroying armored vehicles, delivering troops and military supplies, and providing air support for units engaged in special operation-related activities.

This is not the first time Russia has published such footage. In October, the Russian Ministry of Defense posted a video of a Ka-52 attack helicopter engaged in action in Ukraine. 

With that said, Russia is attempting to export this helicopter while also looking to give it advanced capabilities that would allow it to survive in modern combat environments.