The Russian Helicopters Group has completed the assembly of the first two prototypes of the upgraded Kamov Ka-52M “Alligator” reconnaissance/attack helicopters. Deliveries of serial-produced gunships to the Russian Armed Forces may begin in 2022. Last year, the company created two upgraded Ka-52M prototypes on the basis of the serial-produced helicopters, which are distinguished by improved characteristics and expanded combat capabilities. The experimental design work on upgrading Ka-52 helicopters has taken the Syrian experience into account: the gunship will get new electric power supply and target detection systems, enhanced protection and a longer range of detecting and identifying ground and air targets, which will boost the range of employing its armament.
The Kamov Ka-52 “Alligator” is a highly upgraded version of the Kamov Ka-50 “Black Shark” with a two-seat side-by-side cockpit for the Russian Air Force. The Kamov Ka-50 “Black Shark” (NATO reporting name: Hokum A) is a Russian single-seat attack helicopter with the distinctive coaxial rotor system of the Kamov design bureau. It is manufactured by the Progress company in Arsenyev. It is used as a heavily armed scout helicopter. It is the world’s first operational helicopter with a rescue ejection system. In comparison to the original Ka-50, it has a “softer” nose profile and a radar system with two antennas—mast-mounted for aerial targets and nose-mounted for ground targets. Day-and-night TV/thermal sighting system in two spherical turrets (one over the cockpit and the second under the nose) are also fitted.
The Ka-52 has the side-mounted cannon of the original Ka-50. It features six wing-mounted hardpoints compared to four on the Ka-50. To keep the weight and performance on par with that of the Ka-50, the armor and the capacity of the cannon magazine/feed were reduced. Also some flight parameters deteriorated: rate of climb dropped from 10 to 8 m/s and maximum positive load factor became 3.0 g. Most of the problems were solved by installing the new VK-2500 engine. The Ka-52 is approved for day, night and adverse weather conditions. The Ka-52 Alligator’s two VK-2500 turboshaft engines allow the helicopter to operate at altitudes above 5,000m. It has a static ceiling of 4,000m, and is able to take off and land in hot climates and in high mountainous terrain. The Alligator can also operate in cold climates and icy conditions.
Serial production of the Ka-52 began at the Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company plant in Arsenyev, Primorsky Krai by end of the 2008. After the completion of the state trials, the Ka-52 entered service in May 2011 with first operational units joining the Russian Air Force the same month. Under previous State Defense Procurement Plans, the Russian Armed Forces was to receive 2 experimental and 24 serial Ka-52s by 2012. The second long-term contract worth of 120 billion rubbles signed in 2011, is to provide the Russian Air Force in total with 146 Ka-52 helicopters until 2020. In February 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defence expressed an interest to purchase additional 114 Ka-52s within the new State Armament Program for 2018–2027.