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According to Russian media, the MoD has approved the price for the Kamov Ka-52M helicopters. This comes after 30 of the latest Ka-50/52 version were contracted by MoD during the Army Forum this August. Local journalists obtained the rotorcraft insurance documents to count the Ka-52M unit price as 1 Billion and 75 Million Rubles, equalling around US$15M according to the current exchange rate. This figure does not include smart weaponry, ammunition, ground equipment, spare parts or other accessories.

The decision on the Ka-52 upgrade was based on the helicopter combat experience in Syria. The performance was considered successful, but the aircraft’s weak points were also identified. The MoD signed a R&D contract with the Russian Helicopters in April 2019. The Ka-52M was dubbed SUPER ALLIGATOR as a follow-up to the previous version known as ALLIGATOR. The prototype made a maiden flight on 10 August 2020 with the test campaign expected to complete by 2022.

Changes Implemented

The gunship design has been significantly updated. The helicopter received an improved optoelectronic system to extend the target detection distance, especially at night. The new radar employs an active phased array for more confident flying at low altitudes in adverse weather conditions.

In addition, the new radar supports the new smart weaponry employment, such as long-range missiles. The Ka-52M, as well as the Mi-28NM, will be armed with a new light multipurpose guided missile known as the Product 305 with an effective firing range of 15 km. The weapon made its public debut at the Army-2021 Forum. The fire-and-forget missile was developed by the Kolomna-based KBM Design Bureau, High Precision Weapons (HPW) Holding subsidiary.

There was also information about plans to use even longer-range HERMES-A missiles from the Tula-based Shipunov KBP Design Bureau, another HPW subsidiary. The helicopter is able to interact with the STRELETS (SHOOTER) reconnaissance, control and communications system of the Radioavionica company. This will help the scouts and gunners from the ground to transmit the coordinates of targets straight to the crews. The new digital drive of the 30mm cannon facilitates targeting and improves stabilisation during firing while the heated blades facilitate Ka-52M operations in cold weather. The SUPER ALLIGATORS are to enter service with the Russian Army Aviation in 2022-2023.

SUPER ALLIGATOR Export Potential

Earlier this year, Deputy Defence Minister Alexei Krivoruchko announced plans to acquire more than a hundred Ka-52Ms. The helicopters will also be offered on the export market with a dedicated price tag. It is well known that the transport helicopters of the Mi-8/17 family were sold abroad for more than US$30 million per unit. Against this background, the Ka-52M export version price should be even higher. In May 2021, Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheev announced plans to bring the upgraded Ka-52M to the international market after completion of the test campaign.

The naval version of the original Ka-52 is already in service in Egypt. The version was designated Ka-52K, (with K meaning ‘shipborne’, or ‘korabelny” in Russian). In 2015, Cairo signed a contract for 46 of these helicopters, becoming their first export customer. The vehicles are used both on land and at sea, based on the Egyptian amphibious assault vessels of the MISTRAL class. The ships were initially built in France for the Russian Navy, but the contract was cancelled by the French after Russia obtained Crimea. The ships’ design was adjusted to operate the Ka-52K, while the manufacturer also took care of anti-corrosion treatment for operations at sea. In addition, the helicopters received folding blades and wings so that they could be placed in internal hangars, raised and lowered on special elevators.

Deliveries to Egypt began in 2017. Russian rotorcraft have been used here in parallel with the previously purchased American AH-64D APACHE. In recent years, they have been observed interacting in major exercises. It is not clear who may become first export customer for the SUPER ALLIGATOR. However, there were recent reports that China was considering the possibility of acquiring 36 Ka-52K helicopters for its LPDs.