Russia’s inventory of Ka-52 helicopters appears to have suffered significant damage in the ongoing conflict. The recent intelligence assessment of the war from the UK Ministry of Defense revealed that Moscow lost more than a quarter of its fleet of Kamov Ka-52 ‘Hokum’ attack helicopters in the ongoing conflict.
The UK MoD assessment said that at least 23 Russian Ka-52 Alligator helicopters have been destroyed or lost since the invasion began on February 24.
This amounts to more than 25% of the 90 Ka-52s currently in service with the Russian Air Force and “nearly half of Russia’s total helicopter losses in Ukraine.”
The MOD further said that Ukrainian man-portable air defense systems had caused considerable damage to Russian attack helicopters (MANPADS).
It continued by saying that the helicopters frequently operate with less consistent top cover from combat jets than Russian military theory would suggest.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 25 October 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/bZmLpOMrm8
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) October 25, 2022
Moscow continues to fall short of maintaining sufficient air superiority to consistently deliver effective fixed-wing air cover close to the front line while its artillery ammo runs short.
According to the assessment, Russian commanders probably use risky attack helicopter flights more frequently as one of the few options left to provide close support for troops involved in the conflict.
Oryx, an independent researcher who analyses visually verified equipment losses during conflict, confirms those figures. Since February, 54 Russian helicopters have been lost.
There are 23 Ka-52s among the 54. There are also 12 Mi-8 Hip transport helicopters, three Mi-24, five Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters, six Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters, and five unidentified rotorcraft lost so far.
Oryx reports only 15 Mi-8 helicopters from Ukraine were visually confirmed lost throughout the fighting. Nevertheless, these are documented losses, and there may be other ones that cannot be identified visually.
Since the invasion started in February, videos of Ka-52 and other Russian helicopters being shot down have been making the rounds on social media.
On October 24, the Ukrainian Air Force claimed its forces had gunned down two additional Ka-52 helicopters. Both aircraft were knocked down over the Kherson region.
Anti-aircraft guns shot down the second Russian Ka-52 helicopter of the day. #Kherson direction.🇺🇦💪 . #KhersonOffensive #22ottobre#UkraineWar #Ukraine #UkraineRussianWar #Ukrainian #UkraineWillWin #UkrainianArmy #UkraineKrieg #StandWithUkraine #SlavaUkrainii #SlavaUkraïni pic.twitter.com/B8yNSOgiQP
— Feher_Junior (@Feher_Junior) October 22, 2022
On October 12, Ukraine alleged that its anti-aircraft missile units of the Air Force had shot down at least four enemy attack helicopters, most likely Ka-52s. They supported the ground occupying forces on the southern axis south of Ukraine.
The latest revelation from the British MOD indicates that these helicopters struggled to overcome Ukrainian air defenses. China, a longtime significant Russian arms consumer, would be concerned about how well these helicopters can perform on the battlefield.
In 2021, it was reported that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China intends to purchase up to two squadrons (36 units) of the co-axial (or contra-rotor) Kamov Ka-52K “Katran” aircraft.
Beijing plans to use the Ka-52K, a naval variant of the helicopter, from its Type 075 Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD).
However, the country may find itself in a pickle given that it chose the Russian platform over its domestically produced Harbin Z-10 attack helicopter in response to the situation in Ukraine.
The Ka-52K is a naval version of the Ka-52 Alligator and is equipped with a 30mm gun, air-to-ground missiles, ground-attack rocket pods, and radars with ranges of more than 200 kilometers. It can also carry powerful anti-ship missiles with ranges of over 100 kilometers.
This turns it into a “multirole” helicopter that can conduct reconnaissance and scouting missions, provide targeting information, monitor the battleground, and close air support like a heavy helicopter gunship.
However, the biggest concern is that the sensor technology used in the helicopter may have already been shipped to Western countries via Ukraine.
These worries gained credibility when it was learned that experts from the US and the UK had just finished looking into the Su-35 wreckage, one of Russia’s most technologically advanced aircraft shot down in Ukraine.
Furthermore, Ukraine also doubted the Su-35’s operational capabilities, which China purchased from Moscow. China inked a US$2 billion deal with Russia in 2015 to buy 24 Su-35s 4.5 generation aircraft.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces claimed that only nine of the 24 aircraft were discovered to be operational, indicating the equipment’s unreliability and low efficiency. The main issues are connected to the operation of onboard systems.
Nevertheless, the Ka-52 helicopter’s rising losses will make it more difficult for Moscow to export this helicopter to other nations.