Warplanes: The Other Russian Gunship Goes To War


April 28, 2016: Russia has used two new helicopter gunships in Syria. The widely known one, the replacement for the 1960s Mi-24, is the Mi-28. But there is another, the Ka-52 that has been seen in Syria recently doing the same job as the Mi-28. Ka-52 is an all-weather helicopter that is a two seat version of the Ka-50, which was originally designed as a scout helicopter for the army and a navalized version for warships. Yet the Ka-52 weighs 11 tons, twice what a Western scout helicopter usually weighs. Ka-52 has a top speed of 350 kilometers an hour and can carry up to two tons of weapons or additional fuel. Normal operating range is 260 kilometers, but with additional fuel tanks, it can stay in the air for up to four hours. Weapons carried include 30mm or 23mm automatic cannon, plus bombs, missiles and rockets. Missiles used in Syria have been the 9M120 (AT-9) which is similar to the U.S. Hellfire and entered service in the mid-1980s. Also used were unguided 80mm rockets. The Ka-52 also comes equipped with electronic countermeasures systems for protection from the Russian shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles some rebel groups have.

The Ka-52 is similar to the U.S. AH64 Apache, which weighs ten tons and can carry about the same amount of weapons. However, the AH-64 has a lower max speed (300 kilometers an hour) and has a lot more combat experience. Developed a decade before the Ka-50, there are over a thousand AH-64s in service. To deal with this, the Ka-52 sells for a third or more less than a comparable model of the AH-64. Now that the Ka-52 has some successful combat experience it is a more attractive alternative to the AH-64.


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