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.
Russia this week officially confirmed it has based Tu-22M Backfire bombers at Hamedan airbase in Iran for strike missions over Syria. Pictures show several Backfires being prepared on the ground in surroundings resembling those of the Iranian desert.
Backfires have seen use over Syria a number of times already, supporting forces loyal to president Assad in their fight against rebel forces. A number of videos showed up of the Backfires apparently ‘carpet’ bombing rebel positions, which raises fear of even more civilian casualties in war torn Syria.
Previously, the bombers flew all the way from Russia for missions over the area. Basing the aircraft in Iran allows for much shorter missions.
The basing of the bombers also means Moscow is getting a stronger foothold in the area, which wil be reinforced when the sole Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov supposedly arrives in the Mediterranean this Fall. The ship should bring Ka-52 attack helicopters in theater,m according to sources in Moscow.
The movements are also concerning in light of the flickering conflict in South East Ukraine, where Russian and Ukranian weapons and personnel are facing each other. Russia’s latest movement could be seen as a way to shield off the entire Black Sea from any Western militaries taking an interest in the Ukrainian situation.
Egypt formally ordered 46 Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopers according to Russian Helicopters and defense export agency Rosoboronexport. The news confirms August’s reports about a possible sale.
The attack helos will be naval variants and will be used aboard two Mistral-class amphibious assaults ships acquired last from France earlier. The deal was leaked during the Summer by a company that produces the electro-optic sensors for the Ka-52. A deal for MiG-29 fighter jets was also rumoured around the same time, but that deal so far has not been confirmed by any party.
The Ka-52 is codenamed ‘Hokum-B’ by NATO and is the Russian counterpart of the Boeing AH-64D Apache, which incidentally is also operated by Egypt. The Hokum-B is already in service with the Russian armed forces. The type first flew on 25 June 1997.
UPDATED | Egypt is thought to have signed up for close to 50 Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters, sources say on Thursday 27 August. The news was actually leaked by a company that produces the electro-optic sensors for the Ka-52, saying 50 of such systems are to be delivered to Egypt from 2016 onwards.
The Ka-52 is codenamed ‘Hokum-B’ by NATO and is the Russian counterpart of the Boeing AH-64D Apache, which incidentally is also operated by Egypt. The Hokum-B is already in service with the Russian armed forces.
Russian state export company Rosoboronexport later denied that a Ka-52 deal was made with Egypt, but didn’t seem to entirely rule out such a weapon shipment in the future either.
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.