Russia to test new anti-tank guided missiles in Syria
Ka-52K attack helicopters deployed on the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier will test-fire the latest Hermes extreme-range anti-tank guided missiles for the first time in Syria in the battle with Islamic State, the daily newspaper Izvestiya reported.
“Tests in a combat environment will help finalize the missile system, which should become a standard weapon for Russia’s Alligator military helicopters,” the newspaper said, citing a source in the Russian military-industrial complex. “It was decided to test the Hermes in more difficult, ship-borne air operations.”
What is the Hermes and what is it for?
According to Izvestiya, owing to the new weapon, the Ka-52K will be able to destroy enemy tanks, fortifications and manpower at a distance of 20 miles. The range of similar Russian and foreign systems (Ataka, Vikhr, Hellfire, and others) is less than 6 miles.
According to Viktor Litovkin, a retired colonel and military expert for the TASS news agency, the Hermes will be used to attack well-protected militant targets – arms and IED production facilities as well as command posts and temporary firing points.
“Based on its combat use, it will be decided whether to send the system back for revision or to adopt it,” said Litovkin.
Features of the Hermes
As experts interviewed by RBTH noted, the missile’s key feature is the ability to track and destroy over-the-horizon targets. Due to its infrared homing and laser guidance capabilities, it can hit enemy armored vehicles autonomously, even if they are out of sight of the helicopter crew.
“Similar tactical tasks can be performed by Israel’s Spike-NLOS system, which is mounted on a wheeled chassis. However, Russia’s Hermes can be deployed on ground tracked vehicles as well as on helicopters and ships. Ours is more universal,” a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said in an interview with RBTH.
According to the source, the official data on the missile will be provided after its adoption.
“Now we can only say that its range is much greater than that of foreign anti-tank systems, the farthest of which hits targets 10 km away,” or about 6 miles, said the RBTH source.
He added that the missile can be equipped with either a cumulative or high-explosive warhead.
The shipborne Ka-52
The Ka-52 Katran attack helicopters were created for the French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships.
However, according to Vadim Kozyulina, a professor of the Academy of Military Science, Francois Hollande had to terminate the contract for the supply of the ships to Russia under pressure from NATO allies. Eventually, the Mistrals were acquired by Egypt, and immediately thereafter Cairo purchased a batch of 50 Russian Katrans from Moscow.
It was decided to deploy the remaining helicopters on the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, and they will have their “baptism of fire” at the end of the year.
As Kozyulina noted, the “ground” version of the Ka-52 has proved to be successful in the Syrian campaign. The new machines will also have to demonstrate their combat potential to future buyers.
The helicopters can use P-73 and Igla-V air-to-air missiles, unguided air-to-surface missiles and Hermes anti-tank guided missiles.
Description: The Hermes is a modular, supersonic, bi-caliber, multi-purpose guided missile designed by Tula-based KBP for use by airborne, ground-based and sea-based platforms. The Hermes missile system consists of an expendable booster stage and the primary missile system, also known as sustainer, carrying a powerful high explosive (HE) fragmentation warhead. The spectrum of targets that can be engaged at day/night using the Hermes weapon system includes: armored vehicles, facilities, fortifications and low-speed air targets such as helicopters. The Hermes is sealed inside tube/canister which acts as the missile launcher.
The Hermes-K is the naval variant of the Hermes missile and has been designed for integration on patrol boats on self-contained launcher or on a modified AK-306 gun mount. Hermes-K can engage both low-speed aircraft and small surface vessels acting as an anti-ship missile. Hermes-K is provided with both 170mm and 210mm booster stage with a maximum range of 20 km or 100 km respectively. The 130mm in diameter carries a 28-30 kg HE fragmentation warhead. The guidance system combines the inertial navigation system (INS) with radio-command. The terminal guidance depends on a semi-active laser seeker.
Ka-52K Katran Helicopter, Russia
Ka-52K Katran Helicopter is a ship-based version of the Ka-52 Alligator reconnaissance and combat helicopter, which is under production for the Russian Armed Forces.
Designed for operations aboard the French-built Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, the helicopter is being manufactured by JSC Russian Helicopters.
The helicopter can be deployed in combat, target acquisition and designation, maritime patrol and convoy escort missions.
The first Ka-52K prototype made its maiden flight in March 2015 and was displayed at International Maritime Defence Show (IMDS-2015) in July 2015. Russia signed an agreement with Egypt for the delivery of 46 Ka-52K ship-based attack helicopters in December 2015.
Ka-52K helicopter design and features
The new ship-borne Ka-52K is based on the airframe of the Ka-52 Alligator, which itself is a modified variant of the Ka-50 attack helicopter. The fuselage is covered with resilient anti-corrosion coating and is fitted with folding blades and wings.
The equipment and systems of the helicopter have been modified to suit naval operations.
The rotor system is equipped with elastomeric bearings in blade-mast joints for higher take-off weights. The helicopter complies with the latest Russian and international standards for technical operation of military helicopters.
The helicopter features an advanced glass cockpit, which accommodates two pilots in side-by-side layout. It can be operated by either pilot and is equipped with advanced avionics and powerful weapon systems, which can be configured for different roles.
The onboard avionics with the use of radio equipment and satellite navigation ensure autonomous landing on the ship deck, and the onboard equipment further makes the helicopter a network-centric system for interaction between the Navy and Air Force.
The helicopter is also integrated with an air-conditioning system for conducting missions in the humid marine atmosphere.
Sensors / radars
The Ka-52K is equipped with a laser-beam guidance system and Okhotnik video processing system developed by KRET.
Okhotnik provides the helicopter with increased range of detection and identification, while the auto-tracking stabilises the video field on the target and transmits a digital error code in case of a mismatch between the display coordinates and the line of sight.
The onboard Arbalet radar system allows the helicopter to effectively perform combat missions even in environments exposed to electronic jamming. The helicopter can detect hostile vessels at a range of 200km.
The ship-based helicopter is equipped with Vitebsk defence system, SAU-800 automatic control system and GOES-451 gyro-stabilised optronic station.
The SAU-800 enables the pilots to operate the helicopter in manual, automated, and automatic control modes. It is integrated with the SIVPV-52 data recording and processing system developed by Radioelectronic Technologies.
Ka-52K weapon systems
The helicopter carries a 2A42-1 30mm automatic cannon and high-fragmentation, explosive incendiary, or armour-piercing rounds.
The gun has a maximum rate of fire of 550 rounds a minute and can engage light armoured targets within the range of 1,500m, soft-skinned targets and infantry at ranges up to 4,000m, and air targets flying at low altitudes.
The Ka-52K is also capable of launching Kh-31 and Kh-35 air-to-surface missiles, similar to carrier-based MiG-29K/KUB multipurpose fighter jets and Sukhoi Su-33 (Flanker-C) aircraft.
Engines and performance
The power-plant integrates two VK-2500 or VK-2500P turbo-shaft engines developing a maximum take-off power of 2,400hp each. The engines provide a maximum speed of 300km/h and cruising speed of 260km/h.
The helicopter has an operational ceiling of 5,500m and can climb at a maximum rate of 16m/s. The practical and ferry ranges of the rotorcraft are 460km and 1,100km respectively.
The Spiny Dogfish Might Be the World’s Best Naval Gunship
Russian Ka-52K rivals America’s AH-1Z
Russia’s latest naval attack helicopter just might be the most fearsome ever. Moscow means to deploy the navalized adaptation of the coaxial-rotor Kamov Ka-52 aboard the Russian navy’s controversial, French-built amphibious assault ships.
Without doubt, the current gold standard for maritime attack helos is the U.S. Marine Corps’ Bell AH-1Z Viper, the latest and most capable iteration of the classic HueyCobra—the pioneering gunship that first saw combat during the Vietnam War.
Distinguished from its predecessors chiefly by its four-blade main rotor, the Viper gained entered front-line service in February 2011.
The Boeing AH-64 Apache is widely considered to be the finest attack helicopter of any kind, and it too serves aboard assault ships—although only as part of occasional deployments by the U.S. and British armies.
The latest AH-64E Guardian model debuted at sea aboard the assault ship USS Peleliu during the Rim of the Pacific exercise that took place from June 26 to Aug. 1 near Hawaii.
There have been efforts to develop a true navalized Apache, but these have come to naught, the heavy gunship losing out in favor of the cheaper AH-1.
Another land-based type, the advanced Eurocopter Tiger, has also served on warships, and flew into combat in this way with the French in Libya in 2011. It too, however, is army-operated and therefore not a permanent fixture on flight decks.
The AH-1Z now has a very real rival. The Ka-52K is Russia’s first dedicated ship-based attack helicopter—as opposed to a armed transport for naval applications.
Ironically, when the Ka-50 — as the single-seat progenitor of the Ka-52 was known — first appeared in the late 1980s, Western analysts feared that it might be intended as a naval attack specialist.
In this way, it could serve as a seagoing counterpart to the more conventional Mil Mi-28 gunship. After all, Kamov had built most of the Russian navy’s rotorcraft.
In reality, the Mi-28 and Ka-50 were in competition with one another for the same army aviation orders. Ultimately, neither proved entirely adequate, primarily due to their lack of night and adverse-weather avionics.
Fast forward a quarter century, and the much-improved two-seat Ka-52 and all-weather-capable Mi-28N both are in Russian army service.
Back in 2011 a land-based Ka-52 prototype undertook initial ship-compatibility trials aboard a destroyer in the Barents Sea. Prototypes of the navalized Ka-52K attack helicopter are now under construction at the Progress plant in Russia’s Far East.
A flight-test program for the variant could start before the end of the year. The helicopter has already received the name Katran—after the spiny dogfish, a member of the shark family.
The Ka-52K for the Russian navy retains the now-proven layout, powerplant, weapons control system, ordnance and avionics of its land-based comrade. The helicopter’s coaxial rotors and robust landing gear already render it particularly suitable for deck operations, even in rough sea states.
In order to better suit its new role, however, the Ka-52K variant introduces a range of naval-specific features including folding rotor blades, folding stub-wings, revised life-support systems for the crew, emergency flotation bags for ditching and anti-corrosion treatment for the fuselage.
The helicopter will also receive new navigation equipment and an instrument deck-landing system.
In the future, the shipborne Ka-52K may receive an updated radar, with a new centimeter-wavelength channel. This could detect surface vessels out to a range of almost 100 miles, a tenfold increase over the basic radar.
Kamov could add a new anti-ship missile in the shape of the Kh-35UV, a rough equivalent of the American Harpoon missile.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has placed an order for 32 production-standard Ka-52Ks. Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters, will build the rotorcraft.
Reports in the Russian press back in 2012 indicated that the two new Mistral-class amphibious assault ships the French are building for Russia could have air wings consisting of 30 helicopters each—a combination of Ka-52Ks for attack and Ka-29 armed troopships for assault.
In reality, 30 helicopters is very much the upper limit for the ships. A Mistral would normally carry just 16 rotorcraft.
Despite political pressure to cancel the contract in light of Russia’s belligerence in Ukraine, two Mistral-class ships, Vladivostok and Sevastapol, remain under construction at the shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, France. Moscow and Paris agreed the contract for the ships back in June 2011.
If all goes to plan, the Katran—a.k.a., the Spiny Dogfish—could enter service early next year, by which time the first of the new assault ships should have arrived in Russia’s Far East. But the helicopter needs to undergo realistic testing—and that could mean trial deployments aboard the Russian navy’s sole aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov.
The first front-line squadron operating the Ka-52K Katran should stand up in Nikolaevka, near Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East. This would put the Katrans near the Ka-52K production facility—and also close to the new assault ships’ home port.
The navalised variant of the the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator (Hokum-B) attack/reconnaissance helicopter – the Ka-52K Katran – will be equipped with a compact active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar from Russian defense contractor Radio-Electronic Technologies (KRET), a company spokesperson told IHS Jane’s .
KRET claims that its AESA radar will be able to operate in the millimetric wavelength for effective ground target acquisition as well as the centimetric spectrum to enable large naval targets to be detected at a range of 180 km.
The radar is also capable of detecting low-altitude aerial targets such as cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), providing data to cue onboard electro-optical devices and corresponding weapons to these targets.
Flight safety is enhanced with ground moving target indication and tracking modes, which assists the crew in coping with low visibility conditions such as fog, dust and night-time operations. The radar also detects ground obstacles including transmission towers and power lines.
The Ka-52K helicopter – developed to sink amphibious landing ships as well as the transports of enemy strike groups and convoys with its ability to employ anti-ship cruise missiles such as the high-speed Kh-31AD – was originally slated for deployment aboard the two French-built Mistral-class amphibious command ships originally destined for the Russian Navy.
However, delivery of the ships to Russia had subsequently been cancelled by France due to the former’s annexation of Crimea.
There are now plans to add the helicopters already constructed to the air wing of the Project 11435 Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
The prototype Kamov Ka-52K Katran, a navalized version of Ka-50/52 Alligator family already in Russian air force service, has made its public debut. It was briefly exposed to visitors attending the Army 2015 expo in Kubinka near Moscow in mid-June. Then it was exhibited at International Maritime Defense Show (IMDS 2015) in St. Petersburg in early July. The Russian defense ministry ordered 32 Ka-52Ks in April 2015, and the prototype flew for the first time on March 7, 2015. Its first application was intended to be on the two Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels ordered from France, delivery of which is currently embargoed.
Speaking to journalists at IMDS 2015, Kamov general designer Sergei Mikheyev said the Ka-52K version has a reworked rotor system with elastomeric bearings in blade-mast attachment points for higher takeoff weights. “This allows for an increase in the overall combat efficiency of the helicopter and extends its tactical capabilities,” Mikheyev added. He also touched on the work being done to enable Arctic operations and to strengthen the stub wings for heavier weapon loads.
Shown alongside the Ka-52K were two air-surface missiles from the Tactical Missiles Corporation (Russian acronym: TRV), a Kh-38MLE and a Kh-35VE. The baseline Kh-38 belongs to the new generation of TRV missiles and differs from the popular Kh-25 that it replaces by being able to fit inside to weapons bays of fifth-generation stealth fighters such as the PAKFA (Sukhoi T-50). The laser-guided missile was formally accepted into Russian air force service in December 2012. TRV has advertised the possibility of fitting the Kh-38, which weighs 520 kg (1,146 pounds), to helicopters. But only the Ka-52K has emerged so far as a suitable type to carry the weapon.
The baseline Kh-35 entered service in 1996 on Indian navy Delhi class destroyers, and later was supplied to the navies of Algeria, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. It also won orders from Myanmar, North Korea and Turkmenistan. The air-launched version entered service in 2005 on Indian navy Ilyushin Il-38SD ASW aircraft outfitted with the Sea Dragon sensor set. Because of the many similarities with the Boeing AGM-84, the Kh-35 was nicknamed “Harpoonski.”
The version for launch from helicopters—the Kh-35V—is a relatively new development, not yet operational. It features an enlarged solid-fuel booster, which increases its gross weight from 480 kg to 610 to 650 kg (approximately 1,400 pounds). The length increases from 3.85 meters to 4.4 meters (14.5 feet).
Development of the Kh-35V was announced in 2009. Later, its design was unified with the Kh-35U/UE—a new, universal missile ordered by the Russian navy—which required an increase in range from 130 km to 260 to 300 km (approximately 150 nm). The Kh-35U features a new turbofan engine that runs on “another fuel” and reworked air inlet and channeling, yet keeps weight and dimensions from the ancestor. The newer version is likely to be referred to as the Kh-35UV/UVE. Instead of the ARGS-35 active radar head, it will have the Gran-K with longer range. It will use satellite navigation technologies and interact with external target designation sources.
The Ka-52K itself carries the Arbalet-52 radar with parabolic antenna and mechanical scanning. But its developer KRET is now offering a more powerful AESA radar with detection ranges increased from 25 to 100 km to over 200 km (more than 100 nm), “so as to provide extended-range targeting capability for the air-launched missiles including the Kh-31 and Kh-35.”