It is reported about the completion of tests of a promising deck-based attack helicopter Ka-52K “Katran”. The machine is ready for serial production, and prototypes are now being attracted to new events. Plans for production and supply to the troops have not yet been announced, but it is already clear what consequences they will lead to.
The latest successes of the Ka-52K project were recently reported by RIA Novosti with reference to Sergey Mikheev, General Designer of the Mil and Kamov National Helicopter Building Center. Provides optimistic and encouraging news and assessments of the project’s prospects.
According to S. Mikheev, the Katran tests have been completed. There are no fatal remarks from the military department. Preparation for production has also been completed. The “Progress” plant in Arsenyev is ready to produce equipment – “you just need to press a button.” The General Designer of NCV has no doubts that the series will be launched and the new helicopter will enter service in the Navy. In addition, such a future is predicted for promising modifications of the Ka-52K.
S. Mikheev pointed out that various test activities are carried out after the main checks. Ka-52K are involved in tests of newly built ships. Each ship has its own aerodynamic features and other specifics. Therefore, in the course of general tests, checks are carried out with take-off and landing of helicopters.
In addition, the General Designer recalled that a variety of tests are carried out throughout the entire life cycle of equipment. This is necessary for the development of new types of equipment, weapons, etc. Only the power plant and the supporting system do not need additional checks.
It is not specified how soon the customer will “press the button” and start the serial production of new helicopters. Also, the exact needs of the Ministry of Defense and the possible amount of financing for construction remain unknown.
The development of the deck modification of the Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter has been carried out since the beginning of the last decade. This technique was originally proposed for inclusion in the aviation group of new UDC type Mistral. The Russian fleet never received such ships, but work on helicopters continued and led to the desired results.
The first flight of the experimental Ka-52K took place in the spring of 2015. After that, a full-scale test program began, with the development of all new solutions, components and systems. As follows from the latest news, but such events took just over five years. In the updated design, we found and corrected all the shortcomings, and also prepared production facilities.
The rather long test duration is associated with a number of important innovations affecting almost all the main elements of the helicopter. So, for basing on a ship, the carrier system was redesigned, introducing blade folding units. Similar devices were introduced into the wing design. Taking into account the new conditions of basing and operation, all major structural elements were protected from corrosion.
The complex of onboard radio-electronic equipment has undergone some modifications. So, initially in the Katran project they wanted to use a new radar based on the serial Zhuk-AE, but later returned to the standard for the Ka-52 “Crossbow”. The existing optoelectronic station was replaced with a new OES-52. The use of a number of other instruments required for operation over the sea has also been reported.
The weapons complex has undergone significant modifications. Katran retained its 30mm cannon and is still capable of carrying unguided missiles, as well as air-to-ground and air-to-air guided weapons. To expand combat capabilities, taking into account the new tactical role, the ability to carry free-falling aerial bombs is provided. Also, for the first time in domestic and world practice, an attack helicopter received X-31 cruise missiles and X-35 anti-ship missiles.
The change in the basing method, numerous design modifications, the replacement of equipment and the addition of the weapons complex led to the need for long-term comprehensive tests. Therefore, “only” a modification of the serial Ka-52 has been tested for more than five years. Moreover, the tests were carried out not only at land and sea ranges. In 2016, the participation of the Ka-52K in the Syrian operation was reported – the helicopters operated from the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov.
Helicopters for the Navy
Upon completion of the tests, the Ministry of Defense gets the opportunity to place a state order for the production of serial Ka-52Ks for delivery to the naval aviation. How soon it will appear and how much equipment it will provide is not yet known.
It should be noted that this will not be the first order for Katrans. The first contract of this kind appeared back in 2014 and provided for the supply of 32 helicopters to equip two Mistrals. France refused to hand over these ships, and the position of the aircraft was uncertain. Subsequently, the ships were acquired by Egypt, and the Russian side sold him the Katrans.
The issue of equipping domestic ships with the new Ka-52K is still not fully disclosed. The possibility of basing such equipment on the “Admiral Kuznetsov” was confirmed; helicopters are tested on ships of other classes and types. There are also various estimates and forecasts.
Last year, the domestic media reported that one “Katran” could be based on the BDK pr. 11711 – two of these ships are already ready and two are under construction. The basing of single helicopters is also possible on other ships, from the corvette and larger. However, the combat effectiveness in these cases is seriously limited.
In July, the laying of two promising UDC pr. 23900 took place. Reportedly, the aviation group of these ships will include up to 16 helicopters of various types, incl. Ka-52K. Thus, to obtain maximum strike capabilities, the two ships need 32 Katran helicopters. Thus, the total requirements of the Russian Navy for new helicopters may exceed 32-35 units.
To support the landing
From the very beginning, the Ka-52K project was developed as a combat vehicle for landing ships, capable of supporting landings on the coast with fire. Over the years, the concept has not changed – the helicopter is still intended primarily for use from landing ships in the interests of the Marine Corps.
Thus, the main task for the “Katran” is the fight against the enemy’s antiamphibious defense in the landing area. Defense can include stationary firing points, various armored vehicles and artillery, and the Ka-52K is capable of hitting all such targets. Guided and unguided weapons, incl. with a significant launch range will allow attacking enemy targets from outside the zone of responsibility of enemy air defense and ensuring the advance of the landing force. In addition, helicopters will be able to use anti-ship missiles against surface targets, both in the coastal zone and in the open sea.
The current plans for shipbuilding imply the purchase of several dozen deck-based attack helicopters. Thanks to their appearance, the amphibious capabilities of the fleet will increase significantly. The new UDC will be a more effective means of delivering troops, and the Ka-52K from their deck will provide suppression of enemy defenses and simplify the work of the landing force.
However, it should be borne in mind that real results of this kind will have to wait for several more years. The construction of the third and fourth landing ships of project 11711 will be completed in 2025-26, and the newest UDC of project 23900 will enter service even later. However, the Navy already has all the capabilities to ensure that all these ships receive the necessary aviation equipment in a timely manner. “Katran” has passed tests and is ready for production – now everything depends only on the decisions of the Ministry of Defense.