Naval Air: Flying From Russian Mistrals

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September 29, 2012:  Russia announced that they would place 30 Ka-52K and Ka-29 helicopters on each of their four Mistral amphibious ships. Two of these new ships are being bought from France while another two will be built in Russia. Each 21,500 ton Mistral normally carries 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 troops. Russia will assign 30 helicopters to each Mistral, but only 16 will be on the ship at a time. The rest will be used for training and replacements.

The Ka-52K is a navalized version of the Ka-52 that went into production this year. In addition to being equipped with coatings to resist sea water corrosion, the K model will also have a lightweight version of the high-definition Zhuk-AE AESA radar used on jet fighters. This radar currently weighs 275 kg (605 pounds), but the helicopter version will weigh only 80 kg (176 pounds) and enables the Kh-52K to use the Kh-31 anti-ship missile. This weapon has a range of 110 kilometers and travels at high speed (about one kilometer a second). The Kh-52K can also carry the sub-sonic Kh-31 missile, which has a range of 130 kilometers. Both of these missiles weigh about 600 kg (1,300 pounds) each.

The Ka-52 is actually a Ka-50 variant, nicknamed the Alligator. The Russian army is already using the Ka-50. Some have seen action in Chechnya. The Ka-50 is not considered a replacement for the larger Mi-24 gunship but rather serves as a scout helicopter. The Ka-50 weighs 11 tons, 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. The Ka-52 variant has two seats, so that a commander can be carried. Normally, the Ka-50 operates with one pilot. Weapons carried include 30mm or 23mm automatic cannon, plus bombs, missiles, and rockets.

Despite its designation as a scout helicopter, the Ka-50 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 two man crew. The Ka-52K enables the Mistral amphibious carriers to defend themselves, to some extent. Against large warships with anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles the Ka-52K would just slow down the destruction of the Russian Mistrals. But the Russians don’t expect to send their Mistrals against major naval opposition but rather smaller nuisances in their own back yard.

The Ka-29 is an assault version of the Ka-27 and can carry 16 troops. Ka-27 is a 12 ton chopper than can carry up to four tons. It can stay in the air about four hours per sortie and cruises at 205 kilometers an hour. The Ka-27 has been used by the Russian navy since the 1970s, usually for ASW (anti-submarine warfare) and transport.

 


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