Kamov Ka-52 Alligator: A next-generation combat helicopter

Eric Sof

The new state-of-art Russian combat helicopter designed as Kamov Ka-52 Alligator is a next-generation reconnaissance and combat helicopter, now battle-proven and combat-ready. It is primarily designed to destroy tanks, armored and non-armored ground targets, and enemy troops and helicopters on the front line and in tactical reserves.

The helicopter can operate around the clock and in all weather. The Kamov Ka-52 Alligator can provide target acquisition and designation for helicopter teams and ground troop command and control centers. It can also provide fire support for troop landings, fly routine patrols and escort military convoys.

History and development

In the early 1980s, while comparative tests of the V-80 (Ka-50 prototype) and the Mi-28 were being conducted, the Kamov design team came up with a proposal to develop a dedicated combat helicopter to perform the battlefield reconnaissance, provide target designation, support, and co-ordinate group attack helicopter operations. However, the economic hardships that hit the nation in the late 1980s hampered this new development program.

Kamov Ka-52 "Alligator" during a training mission
Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” during a training mission (Photo: Sputnik)

This prompted Kamov’s Designer General to choose a modified version of Kamov Ka-50 to install the reconnaissance and target designation system. The modified “Black Shark” required a second crew member to operate the optronics/radar reconnaissance suite. Kamov decided to use a side-by-side seating arrangement due to the verified improvements in co-operation between the crew members. This twin-seat version was designated Kamov Ka-52.

Manufacturing of the first Kamov Ka-52 airframe began in mid-1996. Series production was started in autumn 2008. The 696th Instructor and Research Helicopter Regiment, based at Torzhok Air Base, operates eight helicopters, in varying degrees of capability and/or modification, for research and development. In December 2010, four new, series-production Kamov Ka-52s were delivered to the 344th Centre for Combat Training and Aircrew Conversion Air Base.

Design and armament

The combat helicopter Kamov Ka-52 Alligator is fitted with signature control devices and electronic and active counter-measures. It meets the latest Russian and international standards for the technical operation of military combat helicopters.

Russian-made combat helicopter Kamov Ka-52 Alligator armed with Vikhr-1 anti-tank guided missiles
Russian-made combat helicopter Kamov Ka-52 Alligator armed with Vikhr-1 anti-tank guided missiles (Photo: Sputnik)

The helicopter has a two-seat cockpit and can be flown by either pilot. Its advanced flight capabilities – achieved in part thanks to its coaxial rotors – make the helicopter highly maneuverable in limited space and thus adopt an advantageous attack position.

The Kamov Ka-52 Alligator’s two VK-2500 turboshaft engines allow the helicopter to operate at altitudes above 5,000m. It has a static ceiling of 4,000 m and can take off and land in hot climates and high mountainous terrain. The Alligator can also operate in cold climates and icy conditions.

It is also is equipped with the latest avionics suite and powerful offensive weapons that can be configured for a wide range of combat missions. The Kamov Ka-52 Alligator offers a high degree of protection to its crew, advanced automated systems for ease of piloting, and is easy to service and maintain on the ground.

Operational history

Syrian Civil War

Ka-52 helicopters were spotted being deployed in support of the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in 2015, various sources stating they were involved in defense of the Russian base in Latakia, providing escort for search and rescue helicopters, and supporting Russian special forces.

For the first time, Kamov Ka-52s were seen near the town of Al-Qaryatayn, recaptured in early April 2016 from ISIS. They took part in the 2017 Palmyra offensive. On August 12, 2017, they took part in a Syrian paratroopers operation conducting a reconnaissance-strike mission. According to some sources, on May 5, 2018, a Ka-52 crashed near Mayadin due to a technical failure.

Ukraine War

On February 24, 2022, during the initial stages of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at least one Russian Ka-52 helicopter was damaged and crash-landed. On March 2, a Russian Ka-52 was hit by a surface-to-air missile and crash-landed. On March 12, Ukrainian forces reported that the Ukrainian troops had shot down Ka-52 RF 13409 in Novomykolaivka near Kherson.

Technical specifications:

Flight capabilities

Static ceiling:
Up to 4,000m
Operational ceiling:
5,500m
Engines:
2 x VK-2500 or VK-2500P
Take-off power:
2 x 2,400hp
Maximum acceleration at sea level:
16m/s
Vertical acceleration at sea level:
12m/s
Maximum speed:
300km/h
Cruising speed:
260km/h
Ferry range
1,100km
Practical range (internal fuel tanks)
460km

Main armaments

The Kamov Ka-52 Alligator is equipped with a 30mm caliber 2A42-1 aircraft gun, and can also carry a Strelets missile system, launch systems for guided missiles such as Ataka and V-1, as well as a launch system for S-8 unguided missiles.

Emergency systems

K-37-800M shock-absorbing ejector seats
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