The Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopter is proving to be a formidable adversary as the Ukrainian army continues its counter-offensive against Russian forces.
While Russia has likely lost “around forty” Ka-52s since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the type is still imposing a “heavy cost”, according to the UK’s Defence Intelligence agency.
“As Ukrainian forces continue major offensive operations in Zaporizhazhia Oblast, one of the single most influential Russian weapon systems in the sector is the Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopter,” says Defence Intelligence.
Based on analysis of social media images, it believes that Russia has deployed the new Ka-52M variant, which it says benefits from Russia’s combat experience in Syria.
A key improvement for the Ka-52 fleet is the new LMUR anti-tank missile with a range of 8nm (15km), allowing the helicopter to conduct strikes outside the range of Ukrainian air defences.
The Ka-52 features distinctive coaxial main rotors and made its international debut at the Paris air show in June 2013. Armaments include a 30mm cannon, 80mm unguided rockets, and air-to-surface missiles.
The success of Russian attack platforms such as the Ka-52 lends urgency to Kyiv’s pleas for modern western fighter aircraft, specifically the Lockheed Martin F-16.
While Ukraine’s counter-offensive is making marginal progress, Kyiv reportedly faces challenges controlling the skies behind Russian positions. If it deploys its limited number of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) close to the front, they become vulnerable to Russian unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and artillery.
This lack of SAM coverage allows low-flying Russian attack helicopters and UAVs to operate with relative impunity, picking off Ukrainian vehicles and personnel as they attempt to breach extensive fixed positions and minefields.