Ka-52 with a full set of weapons, the cannon is aimed at the lower hemisphere. Photo “Russian Helicopters”
Any attack helicopter is an air platform for carrying and using barreled and / or missile weapons. It is the characteristics of the guns and missiles that make a decisive contribution to the overall combat effectiveness of such a machine. Consider from this point of view two modern models of equipment of the leading powers – the Russian Ka-52 Alligator and the American AH-64D / E Apache.
Helicopter as a platform
The maximum take-off weight of the Ka-52 reaches 10.8 tons. Of these, at least 2 tons are payloads in the form of various weapons and ammunition. The helicopter has a built-in weapon and external suspension points. Pre-production “Alligators” and cars of the first batches had two suspension units under each wing. Subsequently, their number was increased to six. Two pairs of medium ones are intended for a heavier load, the outer ones are for light weapons.
Aggregates of the RLK “Arbalet”. Photo Bastion-karpenko.ru
The Ka-52 is equipped with the Argument-52 or Argument-2000 sighting-flight-navigation system. The main means of observation and target detection in this PRPNK is the “Crossbow” radar with an antenna located under the nose cone. The locator is capable of detecting an airplane-sized target from a distance of 15 km. Ground targets of the “tank” type are detected from 12 km. Support for 20 ground and air targets was provided. There is also an optical-electronic station GOES-451 with detection characteristics not lower than that of the radar.
The maximum take-off weight of the latest Apache modifications has exceeded 10 tons. At the same time, the normal combat load does not exceed 800 kg. The helicopter is equipped with a built-in cannon mount and has four underwing pylons for hanging weapons, as well as two nodes for light loading at the tips.
Super sleeve radar AN / APG-78. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
The AH-64D / E sighting and navigation system includes the AN / APG-78 Longbow radar system with an overhead circular antenna. The detection range of large air and ground targets is at least 6-8 km. A daily OES TADS with similar range parameters is envisaged. TADS is integrated with the pilots’ night vision system.
The Ka-52 helicopter is equipped with an integrated NPPU-80 installation with a 30-mm 2A42 automatic cannon with a variable rate of fire. Ammunition – 460 rounds with selective feed. Installation NPPU-80 is located on the right side of the fuselage and allows you to shoot forward and downward, as well as to the right. To the left of the installation, there is a large dead zone, covered by the fuselage. To control the fire, an ECO is used, synchronized with the movement of the gun.
The Alligator is also capable of carrying two UPK-23-250 overhead containers. Such a product can accommodate a GSh-23L double-barreled cannon and 250 rounds. Shooting is possible only forward, using standard sighting devices.
The Apache bow with TADS devices. Photo Wikimedia Commons
The AH-64D / E has only built-in cannon armament. A full-revolving mount with a 30-mm M230 gun is located under the nose. Ammunition – 1200 rounds of two types with a choice. Fire control is carried out using the TADS system and related tools.
The Alligator is capable of attacking ground targets using a fairly wide range of unguided weapons. It can carry up to four blocks with two types of unguided rockets. Blocks B-8V20A accommodate 20 S-8 missiles with a range of at least 2 km. Blocks B-13L5 carry five S-13 missiles, flying 3-4 km. In service there are a number of modifications of both missiles with different characteristics and combat capabilities.
The Ka-52 is also capable of carrying bombs. On each of the main pylons, it is possible to suspend a free-falling or guided aerial bomb with a caliber of up to 500 kg – in total up to 4 pieces with a total weight of 2 tons.
The gun mount of the AH-64D helicopter. US Army Photos
Apache’s unguided armament includes Hydra 70 rockets and their derivatives. The flight range of such weapons, depending on the modification, reaches 8-10 km. A wide selection of warheads is provided. A launcher of the required type with 7 or 19 guides is placed on any of the helicopter pylons. The sighting and navigation system with a corresponding update allows the use of AGR-20A APKWS guided missiles, unified with the Hydra 70.
The guided anti-tank weapons of the Russian Ka-52 consist of the 9K113U “Shturm-VU” and 9K121M “Vikhr-M” complexes. In both cases, it is possible to mount two launchers with six missiles each.
“Alligator” with unguided rockets S-8 and outboard fuel tanks. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
For use with “Shturm”, 9M120 “Attack” guided missiles of various modifications are offered. Basic versions of “Attack” allow you to hit targets at ranges up to 6 km; a modification with a range of 10 km has been developed. Guidance is carried out by commands from the carrier. Several types of warheads have been proposed: the main one is a tandem cumulative warhead that penetrates at least 800 mm of armor for reactive armor. High-explosive, fragmentation and volume-detonating warheads of several types have been developed.
The Whirlwind complex uses the 9M127 missile and its modifications. It is a supersonic missile with a firing range of up to 10 km during the day and 6 km at night. Guidance is carried out by a laser beam directed at the target by the carrier helicopter. A highly effective tandem warhead is used.
Block of unguided rockets Hydra 70. Photo by US Army
The main weapon of the AH-64D / E for engaging ground targets is the AGM-114 Hellfire guided missile, used with four-seat launchers. In service with the United States and other countries, there are a number of modifications of this product with differing flight and combat characteristics. Various modifications are equipped with a semi-active laser or active radar seeker. Various warheads are used, including a tandem cumulative one. The range of missiles of all types is 8 km.
Apache helicopters almost always use the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile or its derivatives in order to obtain maximum practical results. These products are completed by ARGSN and work on the “fire-and-forget” principle. Such a weapon allows the helicopter to more effectively hide behind natural barriers and get out of their protection for a minimum time.
For air targets
The Ka-52 is capable of defending itself against enemy fighters or helicopters. For this, a launching device for two Igla guided missiles with an infrared seeker is installed in the wing tip. The launch range is up to 6 km, depending on the missile modification.
Launcher with 9M120 Attack missiles. Photo Vitalykuzmin.net
The AH-64D / E has similar capabilities, but it uses AIM-92 Stinger missiles. TPK with these missiles are attached to the wingtip, above and below the plane. Ammunition – 4 missiles. With the help of the Stingers, the Apache is protected within a radius of 8 km.
The balance of forces
When comparing the weapon systems and combat capabilities of the Ka-52 and AH-64D / E, it will not be possible to determine the clear leader. Both machines and their weapons have certain features that determine the advantages over a competitor or lag behind him.
Russian radar “Crossbow” surpasses the American station AN / APG-78 in target detection range. However, it is located in the nose of the fuselage and monitors only the front sector, while the Longbow product has an all-round view and allows observation from behind cover. Thus, depending on the conditions, both helicopters can have advantages in radar and target detection.
Apache helicopter with typical payload – unguided rockets and AGM-114 products. US Army Photos
The American vehicle has a more successful gun mount with large aiming angles, not limited by the fuselage. In addition, the Apache has many times more ammunition. However, the Alligator can increase its firepower with the help of suspended cannon containers. Also, the Russian helicopter has obvious quantitative and qualitative advantages in unguided weapons. The wide range of modifications of the C-8 and C-13 gives advantages over the Hydra 70 products. In addition, in some situations, the ability to use aerial bombs will become an advantage.
The Ka-52 can use Whirlwind and Attack missiles, the most advanced modifications of which have a firing range of up to 10 km, which is significantly longer than that of the AGM-114. However, the Longbow Hellfire missile does not need external control, which reduces the risks to the carrier. At the same time, both helicopters are capable of launching missiles from outside the short-range air defense zone.
Ka-52 is firing unguided rockets. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Expansion of the range of guided weapons is expected in the near future. Thus, the American helicopter is planned to be equipped with Israeli Spike missiles with wide capabilities. A new Hermes missile system with an increased flight range is being created for Russian vehicles. The integration of new weapons will obviously have a positive effect on the combat potential of the Ka-52 and AH-64D / E.
Opportunities for active self-defense are approximately equal and are determined by the use of missiles from serial MANPADS. In addition, both helicopters have modern airborne defense systems with various types of equipment.
Thus, the Ka-52 and AH-64D / E have sufficiently high characteristics and effective weapons, allowing them to solve the assigned combat missions, with one or another specificity. Both helicopters have been tested in practice and have proven their capabilities in real conflicts. All of this indicates that both the Alligator and Apache may be considered the best of their kind – but they are the best in slightly different ways.