Naval Air: November 21, 2001

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The Indian Navy's "Helix-B"s- The Indian Navy (IN) will take delivery of 12 long-range radar detection (DRLO) Ka-31 helicopters before the end of 2002, although it is possible that the first aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2001.

In September 2000, Deputy Chief designer of the Kamov firm Veniamin Kas'yanikov refuted media reports that up to 12 Ka-31s were to be delivered. These will be supplied under two contracts (signed in August 1999 and February 2001) by the Rosoboronehksport company and manufactured by the Kumertau Aviation Production Enterprise (KumAPP), although it is possible that the first helicopter will be sent to India before the end of this year. 

At the moment, two of the first nine Ka-31s are at the Kamov firm's experimental plant in the Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy, where modern avionics are being installed in them (including the "Kabris" satellite navigation system built by the Moscow's RET Kronshtadt, which has no analogue in the world). 

Also known as the Ka-29 RLD, the Ka-31 Helix-B is a development of the Ka-29 Helix ASW/ naval transport helicopter. The Ka-31 Helix-B is fitted with a "Oko" (Eye) E-801 surveillance radar (a noticeable 6x1 meter planar array mounted beneath the fuselage that extends in flight), which allows 360 radar scanning once every ten seconds. The R "Oko" (part of the helicopter radar picket complex (VK RLD)) can detect up to 200 targets simultaneously and track 20 targets simultaneously. Aerial target detection is up to 80 nautical miles (150 km) and surface targets up to 135 nm (250 km). Information is automatically transmitted to ground and ship-based receiving points via an encoded radio communications channel.

Six Ka-31 AEWs and 20 MiG-29Ks were slated to become the air group for the Indian Navy's "new" aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet 'Admiral Gorshkov'. The Ka-31 has a crew of two and an endurance of 180 minutes at an altitude of 11,480 ft (3500 m). Talks for the 'Admiral Gorshkov's procurement began in 1995 and she is currently being refitted for the IN.

The value of the entire "Admiral Gorshkov" package is estimated at more than US $1.5 billion, with the August 1999 contract value for four IN Ka-31s alone reported to be US $92 million, while the figure for the first nine was estimated to be US $207 million.

Which begs the question - "what will the other six Ka-31s do?" Ka-50 "Black Shark" operations in the Second Chechen War saw new Russian Air Force gunship tactics in action, where a single "Black Shark" supported by two Mi-24 "Hinds" were guided onto their targets by a Ka-31. Considering the similarities between India's operations in the Kargil and Russia's in southern Chechnya's mountains, these Kamovs might see double-duty. Adam Geibel

 


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