Turning heads at Le Bourget whenever it takes to the skies is Kamov’s Ka-52 helicopter. Its co-axial rotor blades and comprehensive weapons suite mark it out from the herd and, amazingly for a helicopter, it even has ejection seats. With the Ka-52 now in Russian army service and being touted for export, the design bureau is busy working on a maritime version for the Russian navy.
Kamov has championed the co-axial layout for many years, arguing that it increases agility and performance (particularly vertical climb) while making the helicopter safer by removing any torque problems and, as a consequence, any need for a tailrotor.
Today’s Ka-52 is the latest iteration of a line of Kamov combat helicopters that reaches back to the single-seat Ka-50 that made an appearance at the Paris Air Show in 1993. The side-by-side seating of the Ka-52 promotes crew coordination, according to Kamov design bureau general designer Sergei Mikheyev, who also noted that the machine embodies features that have been born out of combat experience in Afghanistan and the Caucasus.
In its Russian army version, as shown here, the Ka-52 has a weapons suite including 9K120 Ataka and 9K121 Vikhr-1 missiles, the latter using laser beam-riding guidance. It has a 2A42 30mm cannon and the ability to carry S-8 80mm unguided rockets. It can also carry Igla-S air-to-air missiles as part of the Strelets system. The helicopter is well protected with the President-S self-defense suite.
For the Russian navy’s Ka-52K Kamov is working on new weapons capabilities that are more applicable to a life at sea. What kind of weapon suite the maritime version might carry is yet to be revealed, but “it will be different,” stated Mikheyev. The aircraft here is displayed alongside a number of MBDA’s weapons, such as the Marte anti-ship missile, Mistral air-to-air missile and PARS3 precision weapon. “We have accepted NATO standards as our own,” said Mikheyev. “We are very open to bring in foreign equipment or weapons.”
The Ka-52K is intended to serve from a variety of Russian navy vessels, but primarily the two Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels that Russia is buying from France. When asked about progress with the Ka-52K, Mikheyev responded with a wry smile, “It will fly as soon as the French deliver Mistral vessels. When Mistral comes to St. Petersburg, the helicopter will be ready!”
India has been identified as a good opportunity for the Ka-52, particularly as the helicopter is one of only a handful that can operate effectively at altitudes exceeding 4,000 meters. While India has recently selected the Boeing AH-64 over the Mil Mi-28 to fulfill a gunship requirement, Kamov maintains that there is potential for sales there. “Apache was lucky, because the Ka-52 did not take part in that tender,” joked Mikheyev, “but we continue to pay high attention to this area.”
Mikheyev reported a continued growth path for the Ka-52 design. “Things change, tactics change,” he commented, “and the Ka-52 will continue to change. We are looking ahead ten years and we have made space for future developments. This is what the art of designing means.” One area where the general designer sees big improvements coming is in major improvements and new ideas in helicopter defenses.