Naval Air: Russia Buys Back Its ASW Mojo


November 24, 2017: In late 2017 the Russian navy received another ten upgraded Ka-27M ASW (anti-submarine warfare) helicopters. This marked a milestone for the Russian Navy because of the first Ka-27Ms were delivered in late 2016 and within a year the Russian Navy received nearly half of the 46 of the Ka-27Ms it has been asking for since the 1990s.

The Ka-27M is a much needed upgrades of the Ka-27PL, the ASW version of the Ka-27, which originally entered service in 1982 in the Soviet (later Russian) navy. Most of the 267 Ka-27s built were equipped for ASW work but after the Cold War ended in 1991 there was no money to keep their electronics and other equipment up-to-date. Otherwise the Ka-27 is a capable naval helicopter. The 12 ton Ka-27 has a cruising speed of 205 kilometers an hour, and a top speed 270 kilometers an hour and a useful load of four tons (weapons and electronics). Sorties average 3-4 hours. The ASW version carries a flight crew of one to three plus two or three sensor operators.

The navy plans to upgrade 46 Ka-27PLs to Ka-27Ms by 2018. The upgrades include an AESA search radar plus a dipping sonar, a magnetic sensor, new radios and computers that support 36 sonobuoys dropped from the helicopter. One anti-submarine torpedo is also carried. The upgrade includes replacement of the engines and upgrades to aging mechanical components. A major reason for these much delayed upgrades is the export market. Without upgrades the Ka-27 has become unable to compete with Western ASW helicopters, which are still more expensive but are now much more effective because of regular upgrades.