Russia’s newest military helicopter unit has gone through its final testing phase to be officially “combat ready”. Equipped with the Ka-52 Alligator, the Mi-28N Night Hunter and the Mi-35M Hind the military attack helicopter squadron of the Southern Military District underwent its flight-tactical exercise near Kuban in the Krasnodar District.
The unit’s Ka-52s arrived late 2016 to reinforce Mil choppers and get a total combat strength of 20 rotary wing, plus reserves. Flown by 60 pilots and navigators combined, and supported by 150 ground crew and other personnel, the full squadron embarked on relocation exercises, tactical airborne assaults in mountainous areas as well as attack of armoured and soft targets using the onboard guns and missile systems.
The Russian Ministry of Defence is not elaborating too much on details other then saying 60 unguided missiles were fired on 20 different kind of targets.
Russian War games
Also at other locations in Russia, attack helicopter units are engaged in war games. An army aviation brigade in the Pskov region (Western Military District) was brought to the highest state of alert, flying 30 sorties a day for four days in row with its Ka-52 and Mil Mi-8AMTSH helicopters.
It is believed that in the case of an armed conflict Russia will be able to quickly attack and control large areas – for example cities like Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius or parts of Kiev – by flying its very mobile assault helicopter units in from forward operating locations in Russia or Belarus, supported by Russian Air Force combat fighter jets and jamming capability.
Algeria may be the first export country to adopt the Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopter, Russian sources say. At the Paris Air Show, Russian defense export agency Rosoboronexport confirmed it sold the attack helicopter to a foreign country. State company Russian Helicopters earlier stated is was to provide a Ka-52 for a demo in Algeria in mid 2015. The deal is said to involve 24 helicopters, but no official word is out yet.
The Ka-52 entered service with the Russian military in 2011, well over a decade since its first flight in June 1997. Serial production began in 2008. It’s two VK-2500 turboshaft engines allow the helicopter to operate at altitudes above 15,000 feet (5,000 meters). It has a static ceiling of 12,000 feet (4,000 meters), and is able to take off and land in hot climates and in high mountainous terrain.
The helo is in use in Russia for close air support. A navalized Ka-52K variant was destined to serve on the two Mistral amphibian assault vessels Russia was buying from France, but with the ships currently being held by Paris due to the deteriorating relationship between Russia and NATO the Russian Navy will have to find some other use for the 32 machines it ordered. Russian Helicopters is producing 146 Kamov-designed Alligators for the Russian Air Force, of which about half have been delivered.
Algeria has been buying Russian helicopters before. In March 2014 Algiers and Moscow confirmed the purchase of 42 new Mil Mi-28N (Havoc) attack helicopters, six new Mil Mi-26T2 (Halo) heavy-lift helicopters and the upgrading of 39 Algerian Armed Forces Mi-8s (Hip) to the Mi-8AMTSh standard.
The Russian Army has turned up the volume to put some pressure on the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Since this week a new attack / assault helicopter brigade is buzzing NATO’s eastern flank from Ostrov Airbase, about 20 miles (32 km) east of the border with Latvia.
The formerly run-down, reserve base has been gearing up ever since December 2013, when the 15th Army Aviation Brigade was officially formed at Ostrov. Since this week three helicopter squadrons operating tens of attack and assault/transport helicopters apparently make daily training flights, according to several reports we received.
One squadron operates the Mil Mi-28N Night Hunter, a second the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator. Both are splendid attack helicopters that you don’t want to face if your on the other side of the battlefield.
The third squadron operates the Mil Mi-26T heavy-lift choppers as well as Mil Mi-8MTV-5s, bringing a great supply line to any forward operating units. The Russian Western Military District earlier said it will bring Ostrov’s 15th AAB up to a total of five squadrons – not disclosing yet what the additional two units will fly for type of aircraft.
The proximity of Ostrov to the rest of Europe brings the capitals of the Baltic states plus Finland – and there military facilities, within striking distance of large and in theory formidable attack helicopter force. Centrally and strategically located Riga – the capital of Latvia – can be reached in about an hour. No wonder the Baltic states have become a bit more nervous lately about the Russian pressure on their doorstep.
NATO’s secretary general pleaded as late as last week again for alliance’s member states to put more dough into their military, while non-NATO members Sweden and Finland are getting closer to tighter military cooperation between the two of them.