Russian Military Changes Tactics To Prevent Its Ka-52 Alligators From Being ‘Chopped Off’ In Ukraine War

The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) has reportedly modified its combat tactic after losing multiple attack helicopters, including the advanced Kamov Ka-52 ‘Alligator,’ in the ongoing Ukraine war.

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, Russia has lost almost 287 helicopters so far. Although the estimate does not factor in attack helicopter losses, some reports indicate that Ukrainian air defenses have obliterated one-eighth of the Russian combat chopper fleet.

In the latest development, has reportedly changed combat tactics to prevent its expensive, cutting-edge helicopters, especially the Ka-52 Alligator, from being shot down by Ukrainian surface-to-air and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

First and foremost, they reduced the penetration distance and stopped flying deep into the Ukrainian territory. The report claims Russian helicopters like Ka-52s, Mi-28s, and Mi-24s rarely operate behind Ukrainian lines. They move along the front line, hitting Ukrainian targets with unguided or guided missiles.

The helicopters are still vulnerable to Ukrainian defenses, much less so than a year ago.

The second modification in the combat tactic brought about by the Russian military is instructing the Russian helicopter units deployed on the frontlines to provide more robust support against Ukrainian drone strikes and artillery barrages, which saw an uptick in the last few months.

Fortifications and other forms of protection have been built to protect the helicopters deployed at forward bases. The 440th Independent Helicopter Regiment was previously shown operating from inside a real fortress, metal containers, spare tires, and earthworks in a video published by the Kremlin.

Further, the third combat tactic was shifting to using helicopter cells within the same mission to ensure that if one helicopter in the cell does not have a specific combat capability, it can be provided by another helicopter participating in that mission.

For instance, EurAsian Times reported on joint missions undertaken by Ka-52 and the Mi-28, based on a video released by the Russian MoD last month. It showed the two choppers taking off together and the Ka-52 attacking Ukrainian ground positions, indicating how the Mi-8 MTPR-1 was tasked with disabling air defense radars to shield the Ka-52.

The strategy modifications have resulted from an unexpected combat loss of attack helicopters. It is pertinent to note that VKS attack helicopters like the Ka-52 or, Mi-28 and Mi-24 have to fly at fairly low altitudes to obliterate Ukrainian ground assets. However, that also means that they are easy targets for Ukrainian MANPADS.

In the ensuing conflict, Moscow lost several Ka-52s, which cost the country around 219 million rubles per chopper. The shift in tactics, even though not officially confirmed, would thus make sense as the country enters another year of war with no end to hostilities in sight.

Chopping Ks-52 Choppers

The Ka-52 “Alligator” is the most commonly deployed ground-attack platform in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. Since this chopper rolled out of production, it has been projected as one of the best attack helicopters in the world, with zero competitors.

Russia has maintained that the Alligator has better optics, night vision equipment, and precision missiles than other Russian gunships choppers like the Mi-24/35 Hind and Mi-28 Havok. Consequently, the Ka-52 fleet has been used more than other Russian gunships.

The Ka-52 attack helicopters reportedly stormed the Hostomel (Gostomel) airport on February 24, when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine to seize control of the landing strip. Several of these cutting-edge choppers have since been deployed and lost in combat.

According to the latest data gathered by the military tracking blog Oryx based on visual confirmations, Russia has so far lost at least 31 of these helicopters in Ukraine, or a fourth of the fleet of 140-141 K-52 helicopters, the VKS had in its inventory before the invasion.

Ka 52 russian helicopters
File Image: Ka-52 helicopters

The combined losses of the Mi-24/35 Hind and Mi-28 Havok fleets, which stood at 12 and 11, respectively, are practically equal to the number of Alligators lost.

The UK Ministry of Defense published a similar assessment in October 2022, stating Moscow lost more than a quarter of its fleet of Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters in the ongoing conflict. At that time, the losses were pegged at around 23.

On the eleven-month anniversary of the invasion, on January 24, Ukraine announced that it had shot down three Ka-52 attack helicopters in just 30 minutes. At the time, a tweet from the Ukrainian Air Force stated that anti-aircraft missiles downed the helicopters.

The change in combat tactics to protect the Ka-52 and other attack choppers comes when Russia is believed to have deployed several fighter jets and attack helicopters along the border with Ukraine, sparking fears of an imminent aerial raid to mark the first anniversary of the invasion.