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.

Kamov KA-52

Source: Russian Helicopters

The Kamov Ka-52

“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.