Russia’s Ka-52 Helicopter Gunship to be Upgraded with Long-Range Missiles

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The Russian military’s Kamov Ka-52M upgraded combat helicopter is set to complete state trails by the fall of 2022, which will see it armed with a new long-range cruise missile codenamed “item 306.” Details about the upgrade program were posted on the Russian government’s procurement website last week and reported by state media.

“Taking part in state joint trials of upgraded Ka-52M helicopters,” the document read. “Finalizing the helicopters following the results of the state joint trials. The time limits for the contractual work: December 1, 2020 as its beginning and September 30, 2022 as its completion.”

The government documents also indicated that the upgraded helicopter will receive an interface device for the new missiles, an airborne launcher and a command radio link for employing the missile. The “item 305” long-range cruise missile is reportedly the same version that the Mi-28NM gunships—the successor to the Cold War Mi-24 Hind—have been armed with in its recent upgrade. According to TASS, the missile was undergoing trails aboard the gunships in the real warfare environment in Syria.

The upgraded Ka-52M, which is the latest variant of the two-seat KA-52 ultra-maneuverable scout/attack helicopter, will be furnished with a new round-the clock sight system, the latest version of the Russian onboard communications and data exchange system, satellite navigation equipment and other devices to enhance its performance.

The first two helicopters to receive these upgrades will be completed by the end of this coming November, and they will be due to enter flight tests by end of next May. With its new weapons suite, the Ka-52M will be standardized with the Mi family of helicopters. Moreover, compared to the Ka-52, its upgraded version will feature enhanced protection Russian Helicopters, Group CEO Andrei Boginsky told TASS.

The National Interest previously reported that despite the Ka-52 helicopters being capable machines, the aircraft may not likely be produced in large numbers as the Russian military didn’t have a current need for it. Also, while it performed well in Syria, it didn’t have a good place in the Russian Navy’s order of battle.

However, the Russian Defense Ministry has concluded a contract with Russian Helicopters Group rotorcraft manufacturer, which is part of the state hi-tech corporation Rostec, to purchase 114 Ka-52M helicopters. With the upgraded airborne missile perhaps, the Russians have now explored new opportunities to use the attack choppers.

Yet, the Ka-52 isn’t the only heavily armed attack helicopter that the Russian military now deploys. It also has its KA-50, which has been described as a “flying tank“ as it is both heavily armed and armored. In addition to the Ka-52M, Russia is also developing a naval version of the helicopter, called the Ka-52K, which is designed for use on board warships.