Why Are Russian Attack Helicopters Dropping Like Flies in Ukraine

Most advanced Russian helicopters are still being shot down almost daily.
russian attack helicopters

Air supremacy is the foundation of any modern war since it ensures troops’ progress on the ground and limits the movement of enemy forces.

Over one month after the Russian invasion started, Russia hasn’t reached the air supremacy of Ukraine despite having one of the biggest air forces in the world.

Ukraine is still wreaking havoc on Russian helicopters to this day… How did it come to this?

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Russia wasn’t able to achieve air supremacy

Air supremacy means absolute control of the skies, including the ability to fly anywhere, anytime, with little or no risk of being shot down.

Military experts largely agree that Russia has the military capability to rapidly dominate the skies over Ukraine, given its air force might. But Russia decided not to deploy its large air force outpost in Ukraine, maybe to prevent civilian losses or reduce the losses of their most advanced aircraft, which are still in relatively low numbers due to the low military budget.

One of the most critical losses for the Russian Air Force was the Ka-52 Alligator. A helicopter built as a counterpart to the American Boeing AH-64 Apache… and, has been shot down with ease in Ukraine, and unverified reports say that at least 2 of these aircraft have been shot down so far.

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Ukraine’s response to Russian attacks

It has been a remarkable victory by Ukrainian troops who have been able to overcome the missile countermeasures of several Ka-52 Alligator helicopters. 

Military specialists agree that despite the strategic errors made by the Russian forces, a critical element that has allowed the Ukrainians to maintain control over their airspace is creative tactics, adapting to the limitations and circumstances.

The Ukrainians managed to shoot down two state-of-the-art Kamov KA-52 Alligator attack helicopters on March 12, when the Ka-52s were providing support to the ground forces.

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The Russian invasion is meeting a stiffer resistance than expected

Russian helicopters are always in danger due to surface-to-air missiles such as the Stinger, which are being supplied to the Ukrainian army from its allies.

But, the Ka-52 Alligators are conceived to stop the enemy fire with a 30 mm cannon, 12 laser-guided anti-tank missiles, and 4 Igla-V air-to-air missiles.

Ka-52 Alligator

Kamov Ka 52 Russia Air Force AN1610872
Kamov Ka-52 by Alex Beltyukov under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Alligator is a two-seat attack helicopter featuring an unusual coaxial rotor system.

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It’s a development of the single-seat Kamov Ka-50 with the forward section broadened to accommodate the co-pilot. The Kamov Ka-52 is also fitted with an electronic radio and top piloting, and a modern navigation system that allows day and night flights.

The Ka-52s will remain vulnerable

The Russian Air Force’s strategy will change throughout the war, forcing its helicopters to start flying much higher to stand a better chance against shoulder-fired missiles because the pilot has more time to react against the oncoming missile.

Eglin hosts Army Stinger missile testing 140314 F oc707 011
Stinger missile by Samuel King Jr. Public Domain.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to defend fiercely against overwhelming Russian helicopters – that aren’t as powerful as they seemed to be.

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Feature image credit: Russian Air Force Kamov Ka-52 by Carlos Menendez San Juan under CC by 2.0

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