Procurement: Russia Stocking Up On Beefy Scout Helicopters

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November 6, 2008: Russia is buying a dozen Ka-52 scout helicopters in the next year. This aircraft is a Ka-50 variant, called the Alligator. The Russian army is in the process of buying about 40 Ka-50 helicopter gunships. It has bought a sixteen of them over the last seven years, and some saw action in Chechnya. The Ka50 is not considered a replacement for the Mi-24 gunship, but rather 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.

 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.

 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. 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. U.S. scout helicopters weigh less than three tons, but the Russians expect their scouts to do more fighting.