Russian Air Force lost 23 of its highly advanced attack helicopters in Ukraine

As the conflict trudges along, more losses could be expected.
Ameya Paleja
Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter
Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter

Nick Shavchenko/ Wikimedia Commons 

Russian forces have at least 23 of its Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters, according to an intelligence report published by the Ministry of Defense of the U.K. These account for about 25 percent of its fleet of attack helicopters, the report added.

The Russian aggression in Ukraine has led to some heavy losses on the Russian front. Interesting Engineering has previously reported how Russian soldiers have abandoned some of the most advanced weapons systems in Ukrainian territory and Ukrainian air defenses have brought down Russia's advanced fighter jets.

Added to the list are the Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters, reportedly in service before the conflict started. Now, a quarter of the fleet has been lost along with other rotorcraft such as transport helicopters, Mi-24 and Mi-35 Hind and Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters.

What makes the Ka-52 attack helicopter so special?

The Kamov Ka-52 is a two-seat armed reconnaissance and attack helicopter, where the pilots, side-by-side, are a rarity in attack helicopters. It is the upgraded version of the Ka-50 single-seat helicopter used heavily in the Soviet era. The development of the helicopter began in 1994, and it first took flight in 1997; today is regarded by military experts as one of the deadliest attack helicopters in the world.

The helicopter uses a co-axial rotor, negating the need for a counter tail rotor unit, much like the Defiant X, to be used by the U.S. Air Force. Powered by Klimov VK-2500 series turboshaft engines, the helicopter can work in both hot and cold areas and has a top speed of 186 miles (300 km) an hour, reported.

Equipped with a 30 mm 2A42 dual-feed autocannon, the helicopter can carry up to 460 rounds, while its wing stubs provide four hardpoints to carry a wide variety of firepower. The hard points can be fitted with rocket pods to combat aerial threats or anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) against ground-based threats.

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Designed for night operations, the Ka-52 is also equipped with a terrain-following radar and Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) camera mounted under the nose of the rotorcraft. According to, the pilots are provided with night vision helmets with built-in laser range finders.

The attack helicopter also features an advanced avionics suite and self-defense measures such as large exhaust diffusers and flare dispensers mounted on the wing tips. The pilots also get shock-absorbing ejection seats on this rotorcraft, which the Russian Air Force had about 90 before the conflict began.

What do losses mean for Russian attacks?

The Ka-52 losses account for nearly half of the rotorcraft lost by Russian forces during the eight months of its aggression. This does not include the fixed-wing losses that the Russian Air Force has faced, both as a combination of combat and non-combat incidents.

This severely depleted Russia's attack options from the air when Ukraine pushes back firmly. This also means that Russia cannot provide air cover for front-line operations, and its artillery is reportedly running low.

Russian commanders are, therefore, more likely to engage the rotorcraft in more high-risk operations when they have already seen over eight months of combat. The Drive pointed out that Russia may have deferred some of the maintenance of these helicopters either due to demands of the conflict or lack of high-tech components resulting from sanctions on Russia. As a result, we could see more equipment failures as the conflict prolongs.

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