Kamov Ka-50

The Kamov Ka-50 "Black Shark" (Russian: Чёрная акула, romanized: Chyornaya akula, English: kitefin 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 was designed in the 1980s and adopted for service in the Russian army in 1995. It is manufactured by the Progress company in Arsenyev. It is used as a heavily armed scout helicopter.[2] It is the world's first operational helicopter with a rescue ejection system.[16]

Ka-50 "Black Shark"
Ka-52 "Alligator"
Kamov Ka-50 of the Russian Air Force (VVS)
Role Attack helicopter,[1] scout helicopter[2]
National origin Soviet Union / Russia
Manufacturer Kamov
First flight Ka-50: 17 June 1982[3]
Ka-52: 25 June 1997[4]
Introduction 28 August 1995
Status In service[5]
Primary users Russian Air Force (VVS)
Egyptian Air Force
Produced 1990–present
Number built Ka-50: 32[6]
Ka-52: 100+[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]
Unit cost
500 million rubles (approx. $16 million for Ka-52) as of May 2011[5]
Developed from Kamov V-80

During the late 1990s, Kamov and Israel Aerospace Industries developed a tandem-seat cockpit version, the Kamov Ka-50-2 "Erdogan" (Russian: Эрдоган, Turkish: Erdoğan), 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).[17]


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.[18] Development of the helicopter was first reported in the West in 1984, while the first photograph appeared in 1989.[19] During operational testing from 1985 to 1986, the workload on the pilot was found to be similar to that of a fighter-bomber pilot, such that the pilot could perform both flying and navigation duties.[20]

Like other Kamov helicopters, it features Kamov's characteristic coaxial contra-rotating 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. The omission of the tail rotor is a qualitative advantage, because the torque-countering tail rotor can use up to 30% of engine power. The Ka-50's entire transmission presents a comparatively small target to ground fire.

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.[21] 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.[22]

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.[18] The helicopter was 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, painted black, played the title role in the move Чёрная акула (Black Shark), which made Ka-50 known by its current nickname.

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 only a dozen Ka-50s delivered, instead of the planned several hundred to replace the Mil Mi-24.[23]

The single-seat configuration was considered undesirable by NATO. The first two Ka-50 prototypes had false windows painted on them,[24] which successfully misled the first western reports of the aircraft in the mid-1980s,[25] to the point of some analysts even concluding that its primary mission was as an air superiority aircraft for hunting and killing NATO attack helicopters, an alarming but expected Soviet move by NATO planners following the recent J-CATCH program evaluation.

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.[26]

Ka-50N "Night Shark" 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 version would have to be upgraded to meet night attack requirements.[27] Initially, Ka-50N was meant to be fitted with the Merkury Low-Light TV (LLTV) system. Due to lack of funding, the system was late and experienced reliability and capability issues. As a result, focus shifted to forward looking infrared (FLIR) systems.[28] Kamov drafted a design in 1993 that included the Shkval-N sighting system with an infrared sensor.[27] Many variants 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.[28]

Trials led to two "final" versions: Ka-50N "Night Shark" (Russian: Ночная акула, "velvet belly lanternshark")[29] and Ka-50Sh (Russian: Шар, romanized: Shar, "ball"; because of the spherical FLIR turret). The first Ka-50Sh, which was the 8th pre-production aircraft, Bort 018, 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.[23] Neither of the Ka-50 night-attack versions has entered full production.[28]

Ka-52 "Alligator"

In the early 1980s, while comparative tests of the V-80 (Ka-50 prototype) and the Mi-28 were being conducted, the Kamov design team came up with a proposal to develop a dedicated helicopter to conduct battlefield reconnaissance, provide target designation, support and coordinate group attack helicopter operations. However, the economic hardships that hit the nation in the late 1980s hampered this new development program. This prompted Kamov's Designer General to choose a modified version of Ka-50 on which to install the reconnaissance and target designation system. The modified "Black Shark" 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 was designated Ka-52.[23]

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.[30] 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.[22] The Ka-52 is approved for day, night and adverse weather conditions.[31]

Manufacturing of the first Ka-52 airframe began in mid-1996.[23] Series production was started in autumn 2008.[32] As of September 2010, 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 research and development.[26] In December 2010, four new, series-production Kamov Ka-52s were delivered to the Air Base[33] of the 344th Centre for Combat Training and Aircrew Conversion.[34]

The first phase of the official tests (ГСИ) was completed in December 2008 and after that permission was given for the production of an experimental batch for phase 2 (ГСИ, including fire tests and the search for targets)[35]

Serial production of the Ka-52 began at the Progress Arsenyev Aviation Company plant in Arsenyev, Primorsky Krai by end of the 2008.[36][37] 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.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40]

Ka-52 "Nile Crocodile"

In 2015, Egypt signed a deal for the purchase of 46 Ka-52 helicopters, the contract is expected to be carried out in full by 2020.[41][42] Russian Helicopters started producing its first export models in early 2017, the overall production was doubled in order to meet new demands.[43] The first batch of 3 Ka-52 attack helicopters was delivered to Egypt in July 2017, with a second batch of another 3 helicopters being delivered in August. By year-end 2017, Egypt had received 19 Ka-52s.[44]

Egypt's helicopter is a modified version of the basic Ka-52 Alligator that serves in the Russian Air Force. Unlike the basic model, the Egyptian Ka-52 utilizes anti-corrosion materials and has a reinforced fuselage structure. It received new landing gear and wheels, designed for the increased takeoff weight of the helicopter. The Egyptian model features updated avionics and a new cooling system for operating in hot climate. Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia on defense and space industry, proposed to name it the "Nile Crocodile".[45]

The helicopter is equipped with the new OES-52 electro-optical observation and laser targeting system, replacing the standard GOES-451 mounted under the nose.[46] The new optronic system began development in 2011 as a collaboration between Kamov and Sagem, and is based on the French company's STRIX sighting System.[47] The OES-52 provides greater range of target detection and recognition.

The helicopter features the Arbalet-52 Dual-band coherent pulse radar, which has an Earth mapping range of 32 km and a detection range of 25 km for ground targets and 15 km for aerial targets.[48]

The Nile Crocodiles will receive President-S airborne defense systems for protection against guided missiles.[49] The system includes both radar and laser warning receivers, MAW sensors, chaff/flare dispensers, in addition to ECM and DIRCM jammers.[50] Egyptian Ka-52s feature two new DIRCM sets installed on either side of the fuselage, which are different from the standard L370-5 sets.[51]

Egypt plans to arm its Ka-52s with Russian anti-tank guided missiles. The Air Force has chosen two types of missiles; namely the Vikhr and the Ataka laser-guided missiles.[52]

Ka-52K "Katran"

Mistral class amphibious assault ships, ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry,[53] were to contain rotary-wing assets, formed into aviation groups. Each of these groups was planned to include eight attack and eight assault/transport helicopters. The Ka-52K "Katran" (Russian: Катран, 'mud shark'), a navalised derivative of the Ka-52, has been selected as the new ship-borne attack type for the Russian Naval Aviation. Its features include folding rotor blades, folding wings and life-support systems for the crew members, who will fly in immersion suits. The fuselage and systems receive 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 at least 40 Ka-52Ks, the first of which was tentatively slated to enter squadron service by early 2015, coinciding with the delivery of the first carrier.[54] The first of four Ka-52Ks ordered for the Russian Navy flew on the 7 March 2015; the Navy also has option on a further 28 helicopters.[55] In total, 4 pre-series Ka-52K are currently operated and used for testing by the Russian Navy.[56][57]

However, following the Russian annexation of Crimea the sale of the Mistrals was cancelled and they have since been sold to Egypt.[58][59] Russia won the Egyptian tender for providing deck helicopters Ka-52K for the Egyptian Mistral carriers. Pre-contract work is underway, including final agreement on the helicopter's technical concept and other financial conditions.[60]

Ka-50-2 "Erdogan"

In 1997, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in cooperation with the Kamov bureau entered the Ka-50-2 Erdoğan in a Turkish design competition for a $4 billion contract for 145 (later changed to 50) combat helicopters.[61]

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.[61]

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.[61]

Turkey initially selected an improved version of the Bell AH-1 SuperCobra over the Erdogan, Eurocopter Tiger, AH-64 Apache, Denel Rooivalk, and A129 Mangusta. In the end, the contract was awarded to the A129 in 2007.[62]


The Ka-50 and its 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.[16]

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 and 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.[28][16]

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 as well as with ground command posts.[28] The 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.[31]

For its own protection, Ka-50 is fitted with a radar warning receiver, electronic warfare system and chaff and flare dispenser.[16] 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.[31] 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.[16]

Other survivability features include twin-engine design for redundancy, protection for vital aircraft systems, and crash absorbing land gear and fuselage. Also, the coaxial main rotor configuration does not require tail rotor, which can improve survivability.

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.[16]


The aircraft has one Shipunov 2A42. It has selective fire, and a dual-feed, which allows for a cyclic rate of fire between 200 and 800 rounds per minute.[63] This autocannon 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 during flight. The integrated 30 mm cannon is semi-rigidly fixed on the helicopter's side, movable only slightly in elevation and azimuth.[64] 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.[65]

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.[22]

A substantial load of weapons can be carried on four external hardpoints under the stub wings, plus two on the wingtips, a total of some 2,000 kg (depending on the mix).[16] The pylons can be tilted up to 10-degree downward. Fuel tanks may be mounted on a suspension point, whenever necessary.[28]

Anti-tank armament comprises 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, alternatively it can also use Ataka laser-guided anti-tank missiles.[52]

Kamov-52K can be armed with Hermes-A anti-tank guided missiles.[66]

Ka-50/52 can also carry several rocket pods, including the S-13 and S-8 rockets. The "dumb" rocket pods could be upgraded to laser guided with the proposed Ugroza system.[67]

Operational history

Second Chechen War

Ka-50 took part in the Russian Army's operations against separatists in the Chechen Republic during the Second Chechen War. 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 "9K121 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.[23]

Syrian Civil War

Ka-52 helicopters were spotted being deployed in support of the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in 2015, various sources stating they were involved in defense of the Russian base in Latakia, providing escort for search and rescue helicopters, and supporting Russian special forces.[68] For the first time, Ka-52s were seen near the town of Al-Qaryatayn, liberated in early April 2016 from Daesh.[69][70] They took part in the 2017 Palmyra offensive.[71] On 12 August 2017, they took part in a Syrian paratroopers operation conducting a reconnaissance-strike mission.[72]

On 5 May 2018, a Ka-52 crashed near Mayadin due to a technical failure, according to some sources.[73][74]

Other uses

It has participated in a number of exercises, including "Boundary 2004" in the Edelweiss mountain range in Kyrgyzstan during August 2004. The "Shark" 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.[23]

India issued a request for proposal for 22 attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force in May 2008.[75] The Ka-50, the Mil Mi-28, and the Eurocopter Tiger were the front-runners for this order as of October 2008.[76] 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.[14] The Ka-52 was displayed to the international community at the 2013 Paris Air Show.[77]

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).[12]

In June 2015, Sergei Kornev, the head of Rosoboronexport's delegation, said that Russia has signed its first contracts on the export of Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters. "We have the Ka-52 in its export model and we have contracts for it, and it's already being spun because it has a good, firm future" he said at the airshow outside Paris. Kornev did not specify the volume of contracts or with whom they were signed.[78]


Kamov V-80
Prototype version for Ka-50.
Kamov Ka-50
Single-seat version.
Kamov Ka-50N
Ka-50 with night attack capability.
Kamov Ka-50Sh
Ka-50 with improved night attack capability.
Kamov Ka-50-2 "Erdogan"
Version with a two-seat tandem cockpit.
Kamov Ka-52 "Alligator"
Highly upgraded version with a two-seat side-by-side cockpit for the Russian Air Force.
Kamov Ka-52K "Katran"
Naval version with folding blade and reinforced landing gear, wing shortened for basing on ships and the possibility of using Kh-35 anti-ship missile.[79]



Specifications (Ka-50)

Data from Manufacturer sources[22][30][81] Donald,[20] naval-technology.com,[82] Federation of American Scientists[83]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 16 m (52 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 4.93 m (16 ft 2 in)
  • Empty weight: 7,700 kg (16,976 lb)
  • Gross weight: 9,800 kg (21,605 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 10,800 kg (23,810 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Klimov VK-2500 turboshaft engines, 1,800 kW (2,400 shp) each
  • Main rotor diameter: 2× 14.5 m (47 ft 7 in)
  • Main rotor area: 330.3 m2 (3,555 sq ft) contra-rotating 3-bladed main rotors


  • Maximum speed: 315 km/h (196 mph, 170 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 270 km/h (170 mph, 150 kn)
  • Never exceed speed: 350 km/h (220 mph, 190 kn)
  • Range: 545 km (339 mi, 294 nmi)
  • Combat range: 470 km (290 mi, 250 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 1,160 km (720 mi, 630 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 5,500 m (18,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 12 m/s (2,400 ft/min)
  • Disk loading: 30 kg/m2 (6.1 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.33 kW/kg (0.20 hp/lb)


  • Guns: 1× mobile semi-rigid 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 cannon (460 rounds total, dual feeding AP or HE-Frag)
  • Hardpoints: 4 (6 on Ka-52) under-wing hardpoints, plus 2 on wingtips for countermeasures or air-to-air missiles with a capacity of 2,000 kg,with provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: 80 × 80 mm S-8 rockets and 20 × 122 mm S-13 rocket,
    • Missiles: 2 × APU-6 Missile racks, able to accommodate a total of 12 × 9K121 Vikhr anti-tank missiles, Vympel R-73 (NATO: AA-11 Archer) air-to-air missiles, Kh-25 semi-active laser guided tactical air-to-ground missiles
    • Bombs: 4 × 250 kg (550 lb) bombs or 2 × 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs,
    • Other: 23 mm UPK-23-250 gun pods (240 rounds each), 500 L (130 US gal) external fuel tanks. Reportedly, twin Igla light air-to-air missile launchers under each wingtip countermeasure pod (total 4 missiles).[16]
  • Two pods on the wingtips with flare and chaff countermeasure dispensers, 4 UV-26 dispensers each (total 512 chaff/flare cartridges in each pod)

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


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