Ka-52KM: possible modernization of “Katran”

Ka-52K in its current configuration. Photo “Russian Helicopters”

Not so long ago, it was reported about the completion of tests of the Ka-52K Katran carrier-based attack helicopter and the start of flights of the new Ka-52M ground attack helicopter. Now it became known about plans to develop another modification of this machine, intended for naval aviation. Such a helicopter is still being discussed under the unofficial name Ka-52KM.

Works and plans

Andrey Boginsky, General Director of the Russian Helicopters holding, spoke about the prospects of the Ka-52 attack helicopter family in an interview for RIA Novosti, published on September 29. The head of the organization spoke about both current work and plans for the future.

A. Boginsky recalled the recent completion of development work on land and sea modifications of the Ka-52. In particular, the sea “Katran” passed the entire cycle of tests at the airfield and part of the checks on ships. Due to some unnamed reasons, the tests on the ships were not fully completed. Right now, work is underway to create a new Ka-52M helicopter. The receipt of the letter under this contract is planned for 2022.

Russian Helicopters take into account the specifics of the development of the fleet. This year, the laying of two new universal amphibious assault ships, capable of carrying attack helicopters, took place. The holding believes that by the time these UDCs appeared in 2025-26. a new shipborne helicopter should be ready.

A. Boginsky recalled that the appearance of the base Ka-52 and the ship’s Ka-52K coincided as much as possible, with the exception of “chilling” – a set of measures to ensure operation in specific conditions. The development of a land helicopter continues, and its creators propose to create a unified maritime machine on its basis.

Foldable helicopter wing. Photo Vitalykuzmin.net

Development work on the Ka-52KM helicopter has not yet been launched, but the Ministry of Defense understands the need to launch it. Now the military and aircraft manufacturers are discussing various issues before starting the real work. One of the goals of these activities is to achieve readiness for deliveries within the time frame specified by the customer.

Marine features

The basic Ka-52 Alligator is an attack helicopter capable of striking a wide range of ground and air targets using a variety of guided and unguided weapons. The ship’s Ka-52K “Katran” differs from it in a number of design features and combat capabilities – taking into account the specifics of operation and combat use in naval aviation.

The main difference between “Katran” is the presence of mechanisms for folding the blades of the carrier system and wings. The consoles and blades rotate backward along the tail boom, which sharply reduces the diameter of the helicopter and allows it to be stored in the confined space of the ship’s hangar. The planes are shortened and have only four suspension points. The chassis is reinforced to increase the allowable vertical landing speed. In addition, anti-corrosion treatment of metal parts has been introduced, which makes it possible to obtain the desired resource even in harsh marine conditions.

In terms of the composition of the onboard equipment, the Ka-52K basically corresponds to the Ka-52, but the electronics have been modified taking into account the naval specifics. In addition, the capabilities of weapons control systems have been expanded. “Katran” can use not only the standard Alligator nomenclature, but also the Kh-31 and Kh-35 anti-ship missiles, as well as unguided bombs.

Land innovations

In August 2020, the first flight of an experimental Ka-52M helicopter, an improved version of the serial Ka-52, took place. This car has not yet been shown openly, but the main innovations have already been announced. Differences from the base helicopter provide an increase in tactical, technical and operational characteristics.

Ka-52K during military trials on board the Admiral Kuznetsov. Photo “Russian Helicopters”

Ka-52M gets new onboard equipment. Taking into account modern developments, the cabin has been redesigned. A new radar with an active phased antenna array and an improved optical location station were introduced. Improved fire controls, incl. gun aiming mechanisms. Replaced navigation system and communication complex. In terms of the range of missile weapons, the Ka-52M is unified with the Mi-28NM.

The rotor blades receive more powerful heating elements that extend the temperature ranges of operation. The chassis received new wheels with increased load-bearing capacity and wear resistance. Installation of additional fuel tanks is envisaged. The lighting equipment is based on LEDs.

Thus, the Ka-52M will improve its ability to detect, track and attack all major targets. The introduction of new types of weapons will increase the radius and the likelihood of damage. This will significantly simplify the work of pilots. The helicopter itself will be able to operate in a wider range of weather conditions.

Prospects for the Ka-52KM

The head of Russian Helicopters speaks of the need to create a new shipborne helicopter based on the Ka-52M using already proven approaches. The finished car should be “chilled” while maintaining all the basic features and capabilities. This allows us to imagine what a promising Ka-52KM could be.

Such a helicopter will have to receive new on-board equipment with enhanced capabilities, a wider range of weapons, incl. anti-ship, etc. It is obligatory to use a wing and a supporting system of a folding structure. In fact, it should be about combining the main features of the existing Ka-52M and Ka-52K helicopters with obvious positive consequences.

Project appearance of UDC pr. 23900. Graphics of Zelenodolsk Design Bureau

Plans for further serial production of the Ka-52KM, apparently, are not yet available, but some predictions can be made. This technique is proposed to equip the UDC pr. 23900 under construction. According to known data, each such ship will be able to carry up to 16 helicopters of different types. Accordingly, two ships require at least 32 helicopters. Expanding plans for the construction of amphibious ships will lead to an increase in the need for helicopters.

This raises questions about the future fate of the Ka-52K project. Back in 2014, the Ministry of Defense ordered 32 such vehicles for operation at the Mistral UDC. These ships were not received, and the built helicopters were eventually sold to Egypt. Now “Katrans” are proposed to be based on the BDK project 11711, one on each, which seriously limits the fleet’s needs for such equipment. It is not known how this issue will be resolved.

Construction of the entire series of BDK pr. 11711 will be completed in the coming years. The first two UDC pr. 23900 are expected later, in 2026-27. However, the issues of the development and construction of aviation equipment for them should be resolved now so that the ships accepted into the Navy do not stand idle without the helicopters they need.

On land and at sea

The land-based Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter has already shown noticeable success. This vehicle is being built in full-scale series and the troops have approx. 120-130 helicopters. The ship modification of the Ka-52K “Katran” has been tested and may soon go into production. In addition, testing of the improved Ka-52M helicopter has begun. It is going to be delivered to the troops after 2022 and it is already known about plans to purchase 114 vehicles.

Thus, the development of the Ka-52 family continues, and the development of the promising Ka-52KM may become a new step in this direction. This project is still under discussion and the contract for the work has not yet been signed. However, its necessity, in general, is obvious. In the near future, a final decision should be made on this project, which will determine the ways of developing naval aviation for the next years.

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