Russia has deployed more helicopters in response to Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the “self-defence zone”. This includes employing one of its primary components, attack helicopters. Due to the expansive front line and the extensive use of Ukrainian armoured vehicles, these helicopters play a significant role in repelling enemy attacks. The Mi-28N and the more advanced Ka-52 were designed to eliminate enemy armoured vehicles. These rotorcraft play a vital role in combat and possess remarkable capabilities.
Russia’s official videos show Ka-52 helicopters destroying Ukrainian armour, including German-made Leopard 2 tanks, while Ukraine says it has shot down four of them during the counteroffensive.
The Ka-52 “Alligator” is one of the most distinctive and futuristic assault helicopters of the twenty-first century. The Kamov Design Bureau, under the direction of Chief Designer Sergey Mikheev, designed tit and Progress Aviation Plant in Arsenyev, Primorsky Krai, Russia, manufactures this combat helicopter, which is capable of performing tasks in any weather condition and at any time of day.
The design follows the conventional Kamov layout, which is unorthodox for attack helicopters, with two primary rotors and no tail rotor (a tail boom replaces it). This design offers an unprecedented combination of high manoeuvrability, combat capabilities, and compact dimensions.
The Ka-52, with a crew of two, was derived from the single-pilot “Black Shark”. Adding a second aviator resolved numerous problems using the most sophisticated weapon systems. Since 2011, these helicopters have been in use by the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The Ka-52 is capable of carrying multiple varieties of guided missiles. For instance, it can deploy anti-tank missiles from the “Sturm-VU” and “Vikhr-M” complexes. The “Vikhr” missiles have twice the speed of sound and a range of up to 10 kilometres, while the “Ataka” missile from the “Sturm-VU” complex has a range of 4 to 8 kilometres and flies marginally faster than the speed of sound. The Ka-52 can transport twelve containerised missiles.
Nonetheless, the lightweight multi-purpose guided missile (LMUR) “product 305” is the most potent armament of the most recent variants of this helicopter. The Ka-52 can carry two to four of these missiles, each capable of striking armoured targets up to 20 kilometres away with pinpoint accuracy. This new missile entered service with front-line aviation between 2021 and 2022 and is presently reserved for the most vital targets within the self-defence zone.
The Ka-52 engages area targets with S-8 calibre (80 mm) unguided missiles fired from underwing pods, a conventional armament for front-line aviation. These “flying batteries” can fire these rockets using lofting, a technique in which the helicopter tilts upwards during firing to acquire speed and launch the projectiles higher. This enables targets to be destroyed without entering the engagement zone of the enemy’s mobile and portable air defence systems. This combat technique is justified based on the criterion of “cost-effectiveness.”
Several dozens of Ka-52 helicopters are presently operating in the area of the special military operation, dispersed along various sectors of the front line in support of the ground forces’ units and formations.
Like the Ka-52, the Mi-28H is an attack helicopter for special military operations. It follows a traditional design scheme called the “Night Hunter” all-weather model. Developed by the Mil Design Bureau, the Russian Aerospace Forces adopted it in 2009. More than 80 Mi-28N helicopters, including the more advanced Mi-28NM, are in service. The new modification includes a mast-mounted radar with a spherical cover, which improves its search capabilities in adverse weather and at night.
Similar to the Ka-52, the Mi-28N is equipped with guided anti-tank missiles, such as “Ataka” missiles (up to 16 in containers), and it can also transport the LMUR “Product 305” missile. Unlike the Ka-52, in which the pilots sit side-by-side in a single cockpit, the helicopter’s cockpit is armoured to protect the two pilots, who are positioned one behind the other in distinct cabins.
The Mi-28N is a specialised anti-tank helicopter that is particularly effective against armoured vehicles. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was designed to counter tanks such as the M1 Abrams, Leopard 2, and Challenger 2. It is intended to serve as an airborne anti-tank complex with specialised detection systems for hostile armoured vehicles. The Mi-28N is a protected, versatile helicopter equipped with advanced weaponry. It can engage infantry and a variety of other targets.
The Ka-52 and Mi-28N are outfitted with modern anti-aircraft missile countermeasures and advanced rescue systems. The Mi-28N’s cockpit armour can endure 20mm Vulcan cannon shells, and the armoured cabin glazing can withstand 12.7mm bullets. The passive protection system guarantees the crew’s safety during emergency landings at 12 metres per second speed. The landing gear structure absorbs the impact, and personnel seat supports and energy-absorbing Pamir-K seats reduce overload values to physiologically tolerable levels. Precaution has been taken to ensure the crew’s survival in emergencies or combat situations.
In addition, both the Ka-52 and Mi-28N are equipped with a 30mm calibre 2A42 rapid-fire cannon. This is an aircraft-modified automatic weapon capable of firing up to 800 rounds per minute and switching between various varieties of ammunition. It is a versatile weapon equipped with modern electro-optical sights, allowing it to engage targets at any time of day or night.
Modern modifications of the legendary Mi-8 are crucial among the most important helicopters of the Airborne Forces. The current Mi-8AMTSh, Mi-8MTV-5, Mi-8MTPR-1, and others have only inherited their predecessor’s appearance and name. Under the designation Mi-17, these are modern military transport, transport-combat, and special-purpose helicopters manufactured by the Russian aviation industry for the Russian Aerospace Forces and export.
These helicopters are renowned for their adaptability and commonly have superior transport cargo and people. Modern Mi-8 combat variants are equipped to carry both “Ataka” anti-tank missiles and unguided 80mm rocket pods. Comparable to self-sufficient aerial artillery batteries, they provide fire support for an airborne platoon deployed in enemy territory. The Mi-8’s arsenal is comparable to that of the Mi-24 helicopters of the recent past.
The most recent Mi-24 modifications are still employed in special military operations. It is still a dependable armoured vehicle capable of engaging hostile forces and positions, even in the presence of contemporary air defence systems. However, the more sophisticated Ka-52 and Mi-28N helicopters are superior in their combat capabilities during strike operations. These helicopters are designed for modern warfare and for neutralising the array of Western equipment with which Russian special operations forces are confronted.