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Ka-50 Blackshark


Ka 50 Black Shark

The Kamov Ka-50 "Black Shark" (Russian: Чёрная акула; Chornaya Akula Black Shark, NATO reporting name: Hokum A) is a single-seat Russian attack helicopter with the distinctive coaxial rotor system of the Kamov design bureau. It was designed in the 1980s and adopted for service in the Russian army in 1995. It is currently manufactured by the Progress company in Arsenyev. It is being used as a heavily armed scout helicopter.

During the late 1990s, Kamov and Israel Aerospace Industries developed a tandem-seat cockpit version, the Kamov Ka-50-2 "Erdogan", to compete in Turkey's attack helicopter competition. Kamov also designed another two-seat variant, the Kamov Ka-52 "Alligator" (Russian: Аллигатор, NATO reporting name: Hokum B).


The Ka-50 is the production version of the V-80Sh-1 prototype. Production of the attack helicopter was ordered by the Soviet Council of Ministers on 14 December 1987. Development of the helicopter was first reported in the West in 1984. The first photograph appeared in 1989. Following initial flight testing and system tests the Council ordered the first batch of helicopters in 1990. The attack helicopter was first described publicly as the "Ka-50" in March 1992 at a symposium in the United Kingdom.

The helicopter was publicly unveiled at the Mosaeroshow '92 at Zhukovskiy, in August 1992. The following month, the second production example made its foreign debut at the Farnborough Airshow, where it was displayed with an image of a werewolf on its rudder—gaining the popular nickname "Werewolf". The fifth prototype gave the Ka-50 a particularly enduring designation. Painted black for its starring role in the movie Чёрная акула/Black Shark, the helicopter has been known by that nickname ever since. In November 1993, four production helicopters were flown to the Army Aviation Combat Training Centre at Torzhok to begin field trials. The president of the Russian Federation authorized the fielding of the Ka-50 with the Russian Army on 28 August 1995. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a severe drop in defense procurement. This resulted in a mere dozen Ka-50s delivered, instead of the planned several hundred to replace the Mil Mi-24.

Kamov concluded after thorough research of helicopter combat in Afghanistan and other war zones that the typical attack mission phases of low-level approach, pop-up target acquisition and weapon launch do not simultaneously demand navigation, maneuvering and weapons operation of the pilot; and thus with well-designed support automation a single pilot can carry out the entire mission alone. During operational testing from 1985 to 1986, the workload on the pilot was found to be similar to that of a fighter-bomber pilot, and the pilot could perform both flying and navigation duties.

Ka 50 NTW 7 8 93
Kamov Ka-50 "Black Shark" on display

Like other Kamov helicopters, it features Kamov's characteristic contra-rotating co-axial rotor system, which removes the need for the entire tail rotor assembly and improves the aircraft's aerobatic qualities—it can perform loops, rolls and "the funnel" (circle-strafing), where the aircraft maintains a line-of-sight to the target while flying circles of varying altitude, elevation and airspeed around it. Using two rotors means that a smaller rotor with slower-moving rotor tips can be used, compared to a single-rotor design. Since the speed of the advancing rotor tip is a primary limitation to the maximum speed of a helicopter, this allows a faster maximum speed than helicopters such as the AH-64. The elimination of the tail rotor is a qualitative advantage, because the torque-countering tail rotor can use up to 30% of engine power. Furthermore, the vulnerable boom and rear gearbox are fairly common causes of helicopter losses in combat; the Black Shark's entire transmission presents a comparatively small target to ground fire.

The single-seat configuration was considered undesirable by NATO. The first two Ka-50 prototypes had false windows painted on them. The "windows" evidently worked, as the first western reports of the aircraft were wildly inaccurate, to the point of some analysts even concluding its primary mission was as an air superiority aircraft for hunting and killing NATO attack helicopters. For improved pilot survivability the Ka-50 is fitted with a NPP Zvezda (transl. Star) K-37-800 ejection seat, which is a rare feature for a helicopter. Before the rocket in the ejection seat deploys, the rotor blades are blown away by explosive charges in the rotor disc and the canopy is jettisoned.

The Ka-50 and its modifications have been chosen as the special forces' support helicopter, while the Mil Mi-28 has become the main army's gunship. The production of Ka-50 was recommenced in 2006. In 2009, the Russian Air Force received three units, built from incomplete airframes dating from the mid-1990s.

Ka-50N and Ka-50Sh

From the time the Ka-50 was ordered in 1987 it was known that the limited night-time capability of the original Ka-50 version would have to be upgraded to meet night attack requirements. Initially, Ka-50N was to be have been fitted with the Merkury Low-Light TV (LLTV) system. Due to a lack of funding, the system was late and experienced reliability and capability issues. As a result, focus shifted to forward looking infrared (FLIR) systems. Kamov drafted a design in 1993 that included the Shkval-N sighting system with an infrared sensor. Many versions were tried; on some the original "Shkval" was supplemented by a thermal imaging system, while others saw a complete replacement by the "Samshit" day-and-night system (also used on Ka-52). Some of the imagers included in the trials were manufactured by the French SAGEM and Thomson companies. Kamov was forced to consider foreign analogues as a temporary replacement for domestic imaging systems because of their slow development.

Trials led to two "final" versions: Ka-50N ("Nochnoy/Night") and Ka-50Sh ("Shar/Sphere", because of the spherical FLIR turret). The first Ka-50Sh was the 8th pre-production aircraft, Bort 018; it first flew on 4 March 1997. The Kamov company and Black Shark logos were displayed on the endplate fins and the vertical tail. It featured the Samshit-50 system installed within a 640 mm (25 in) diameter sphere under the nose. Shkval system was moved to the nose cone area. Neither of the Ka-50 night attack versions have entered full production.

Ka-52 "Alligator"

Ka 52 at MAKS 2009
Ka-52 "061", Zhukovski, 2009

In the early 1980s, while the comparative tests of the V-80 (Ka-50 prototype) and the Mi-28 were still ongoing, the Kamov design team came up with a proposal to develop a dedicated helicopter to conduct battlefield reconnaissance, provide target designation, support and co-ordinate group attack helicopter operations. However, the economic hardships that hit the nation in the late 1980s hampered the development program of the new type. This prompted Kamov's Designer General to choose a modified version of Ka-50 on which to install the recce and target designation system. The modified "Hokum" required a second crew member to operate the optronics/radar reconnaissance suite. Kamov decided to use side-by-side seating arrangement, due to the verified improvements in co-operation between the crew members. This twin-seat version of the "Hokum" received a designation of Ka-52.

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. "Samshit" day-and-night TV/thermal sighting system in two spherical turrets (one over the cockpit and the second under the nose) are also present. The Ka-52 retains the side-mounted cannon of the original Ka-50. It features six wing-mounted hardpoints as opposed to four on the Ka-50. In order to keep the weight and performance on par with that of the Ka-50, some trade-offs were introduced to the design; the scale of the armour plating and the capacity of the cannon magazine/feed have been reduced. Despite the introductions, some flight parameters have deteriorated; rate of climb is 8 m/s (vs. 10 m/s), maximum positive load factor is 3.0 g. Most of the problems were solved by installing or remotorising with new VK-2500 engine. The Ka-52 is approved for day, night and adverse meteorological conditions.

Manufacturing of the first Ka-52 airframe began in mid-1996. Serial production was started in autumn 2008. The 696th Instructor and Research Helicopter Regiment, based at Torzhok Air Base, is operating eight helicopters, in varying degrees of capability and/or modification, for the purpose of ongoing research and development. In December 2010, four new, series-production Kamov Ka-52s were delivered to the Air Base, 344th Centre for Combat Training and Aircrew Conversion.

Kamov Ka 52
Ka-52 at Torzhok Air Base

The first phase of the official tests (ГСИ) was completed in December 2008, whereupon permission was given for the production of an experimental batch, for the continuation of phase 2 (ГСИ, including fire tests and the search for targets)

The Ka-52 has completed the state trials. The fourth operationally configured helicopter was taken on strength by the Russian Air Force on 10 February 2011. Under the current State Defense Procurement Plan, Russian Armed Forces will receive 30 helicopters by 2012. A second batch of 36 helicopters will be inducted to service in early 2012. Russia’s Air Force is to adopt 140 Ka-52s. Dmitry Petrov, general director of the holding company Russian Helicopters, stated that that the manufacturer had signed a major contract with the Ministry of Defense. The Ka-52 is assembled in the helicopter factory at Arsenyev, Primorsky Krai.

Mistral class amphibious assault ships, ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry, will contain rotory-wing assets, formed into aviation groups. Each of these groups is planned to include eight attack and eight assault/transport helicopters. The navalised derivative of the Ka-52 Alligator– Ka-52K, has been selected as the new ship-borne attack type for the Russian Naval Aviation (Aviatsiya Voenno-morskogo Flota Rossii). It will feature folding rotor blades, folding wings and life-support systems for the crew members, who will fly in immersion suits. The fuselage and systems will be given special anti-corrosion treatment and a new fire-control radar will be capable of operating in "Sea Mode" and of supporting anti-ship missiles. Russian Naval Aviation will need no fewer than 40 Ka-52Ks, the first of which is tentatively slated to enter squadron service by late 2014 or early 2015, coinciding with the delivery of the first carrier.

Ka-50-2 "Erdogan"

In 1997, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in cooperation with the Kamov bureau entered the Ka-50-2 Erdogan (Turkish for "Born Warrior") in a Turkish design competition for a $4 billion contract for 145 (later changed to 50) combat helicopters.

The Ka-50-2 is a tandem cockpit variant of the Ka-50. It featured a modern, Israeli-made "glass cockpit" avionics and a turret-mounted folding (for landing clearance) 30 mm cannon instead of the fixed cannon on the Ka-50. It features combat-proven avionics and advanced anti-tank guided missiles for a high level of combat effectiveness. The helicopter has excellent flight performance, and high combat survivability due to its coaxial rotor technology. It is equipped with IAI's flexible modular avionics suite, which can be readily tailored to meet the TLF's operational requirements and provides growth potential.

IAI and Kamov performed flights of the variant with IAI's Core Avionics. These flights demonstrated the helicopter's "glass cockpit" with multifunctional displays and Control and Display Unit (CDU) driven by centralized mission computers. Also tested were its flight navigation and the operation of the Helicopter Multi-Mission Optronic Stabilized Payload (HMOSP) targeting system. The demonstration flights included night mission capability demonstrations using Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and the day/night targeting system.

Turkey initially selected an improved version of Bell AH-1 SuperCobra over the Erdogan, Eurocopter Tiger, AH-64 Apache, Denel Rooivalk, and A129 Mangusta. In the end, the contract went to the A129 in 2007.


Ka-50 and the two-seat version Ka-52, are high-performance combat helicopters with day and night capability, high survivability and fire power, to defeat air targets and heavily armoured tanks armed with air defence weapons. It was designed to be small, fast and agile to improve survivability and lethality.

The coaxial rotor design provides a hovering ceiling of 4,000 m and vertical rate of climb of 10 m a second at an altitude of 2,500 m. The rotor blades are made from polymer materials. The coaxial-rotor configuration results in moments of inertia values relative to vertical and lateral axes between 1.5 to two times less than the values found in single-rotor helicopters with tail rotors. Absence of the tail rotor enables the helicopter to perform flat turns within the entire flight speed range. A maximum vertical load factor of 3.5 g combined with low moments of inertia give the Ka-50 a high level of agility. Flight systems include inertial navigation system (INS), autopilot and head-up display (HUD). Sensors include forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and terrain-following radar.

The Kamov Ka-50 is also fitted with an electronic radio and sighting-piloting-navigating system allowing flights at day and night in VFR and IFR weather conditions. The novelty of this avionics is based on the system of precise target designation with digital coded communication system, which ensures the exchange of information (precise enemy coordinates) between helicopters flying far apart from each other and ground command posts as well. Ka-52 is also equipped with a "Phazotron" cockpit radio-locator allowing flights in adverse meteorological conditions and at night. The necessary information acquired by this radio-locator is transferred to the cockpit's multi-functional display screen. For conducting a fight, both pilots are equipped with range-finders built-in their helmets and they can use night vision eyepieces for night flights.

For its own protection, Black Shark is fitted with a radar warning receiver, electronic warfare system and chaff and flare dispenser. The dispensers are placed in aerodynamic containers fitted at wings’ ends. Each casing (container) contains two dispensers with 32 x 26 mm countermeasures each. The whole system works on principle of evaluated response based on infrared or electronic impulse irradiation.

Extensive all-round armour installed in the cockpit protects the pilot against 12.7 mm armour-piercing bullets and 23 mm projectile fragments. The rotor blades are rated to withstand several hits of ground-based automatic weapons.

A high degree of the Kamov Ka-50 survivability is ensured by: the pilot’s cockpit fitted with steel plates that can withstand lateral hit of 20 mm projectiles. In addition to armored glass 55 mm thickprotection of fuel tanks, controls, drive system, auxiliary power unit (APU). Hydraulic and other systems the rotor blades made from super-strong plastic allowing to continue flight despite several direct hits The coaxial main rotor configuration without tail rotor and its control systems and gear box radically increasing the helicopter survivability because when they are hit, a crash is inevitable composite materials, amount to 35 per cent of the helicopter's load-carrying structure. Landing gear and fuselage absorb ground impact overloads. If one engine is destroyed, the Ka-50 can fly with only one.

It is the world's first operational helicopter with a rescue ejection system, which allows the pilot to escape at all altitudes and speeds. The K-37-800 rocket-assisted ejection system is manufactured by the Zvezda Research and Production Enterprise Joint Stock Company in the Moscow region.


The aircraft has one 2A42 30-mm gun. This automatic cannon is mounted near the centre of fuselage and carries 460 high-fragmentation, explosive incendiary, or armour-piercing rounds. The type of ammunition is also selected by the pilot in the flight. Integrated 30 mm cannon is semi-rigidly fixed on the helicopter's side, movable only slightly in elevation and azimuth. Semi-rigid mounting improves the cannon's accuracy, giving the 30 mm a longer practical range and better hit ratio at medium ranges than with a free-turning turret mount.

The fire control system automatically shares all target information in real time, allowing one helicopter to engage a target spotted by another aircraft, and the system can also input target information from ground-based forward scouts with personnel-carried target designation gear.

A substantial load of weapons is carried in four external hardpoints under the stub wings, plus two on the wingtips, a total of some 2,000 kg (depending on the mix). The pylons can be tilted to a 10-degree downward. Fuel tanks may be mounted on a suspension point, whenever necessary.

Anti-tank armament are the twelve laser-guided Vikhr anti-tank missiles (transl. Vortex or whirlwind), with a maximum range of some 8 km. The laser guidance is reported to be virtually jam-proof and the system features automatic guidance to target, enabling evasive action immediately after missile launch.

Ka-50/52 can also carry several rocket pods, which include the S-13 and S-8 rockets. The "dumb" rocket pods could be upgraded to laser guided with the proposed Ugroza system.

Operational history

Ka 50 helicopters over Moscow
A pair of Ka-50s flying over Moscow in 2010

Ka-50 took part in the Russian Army's operations against separatists in the Chechen Republic. In December 2000, a pair of production Ka-50s arrived to the area. With the Ka-50s was a Ka-29, to provide reconnaissance and target designation. On 6 January 2001, the Ka-50 used live weapons against a real enemy for the first time. On 9 January, at the entry into a mountain gorge in the area of a settlement named Komsomolskoye, a single Ka-50 accompanied by an Mi-24 used S-8 unguided rockets to destroy a warehouse full of ammunition belonging to Chechen insurgents. On 6 February, in the forest covered mountain area to the south of the village of Tsentoroj, the strike group composed of two Ka-50s and the sole Ka-29 discovered and, from a range of 3 km, destroyed a fortified camp of insurgents using two "Vikhr" guided missiles. 14 February, saw a similar strike group carrying out a "hunting" mission in the area of Oak-Yurt and Hatun. In difficult conditions, pilots found and destroyed eight targets. These missions tested the type's airframe, as well as its on-board systems and armament. Its successful performance in difficult, mountainous terrain once again confirmed the usefulness of the many advanced features of the Ka-50's design, including its power and maneuverability.

It is unclear if the type has been used in combat since. It has participated in a number of exercises, including "Boundary 2004" in the Edelweiss mountain range in Kyrgyzstan during August 2004. The "Hokum" demonstrated its advantages by operating at a high altitude and an air temperature of more than 30 °C. A Ka-50 provided cover for the landing of troops and then worked on the ground targets using its cannons and rockets.

India issued a request for proposal for 22 attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force in May 2008. The Ka-50, the Mil Mi-28, and the Eurocopter Tiger were the front-runners for this order as of October 2008. The tender though was eventually cancelled and later India announced a new tender, with revised conditions. Russia again offered the Mi-28N and Ka-52.

The Russian Air Force has accepted 12 Ka-52 helicopters for operational service in 2011, and the total number of completed Ka-52s was already 65 units. 20 Ka-52 aircraft were located at the 575th Airbase Chernigovsky District, Eastern Military District. 16 were at 393rd "Sevastopol" Airbase Korenovsk, Southern Military District, 12 were transferred to newly formed 15th Army Aviation Brigade of the Western Military District at the airport of Ostrov, 8 - Torzhok 344th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training. Five test aircraft are owned by JSC "Kamov"; two machines were lost in accidents. The Ka-52 was displayed to the international community at the 2013 Paris Air Show.

In 2013, the AAC "Progress" has completed the contract with the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, signed in 2009, and would begin the next long-term contract for supplying 143 Ka-52, worth about 120 billion rubles (US $≈3.5 bln).

Source: Wikipedia