According to the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian military has reduced the intensity of using Ka-52 attack helicopters in dealing with enemy counterattacks on the southern and eastern fronts of Ukraine.

The reason is said to be because Ukrainian forces are becoming more and more proficient in dealing with this attack helicopter model, according to Insider on September 29, citing a report from the US Institute for the Study of War.

The Ka-52 helicopter, nicknamed Alligator, is an aircraft that appears to have played an important role for Russia in dealing with enemy counterattacks. This is also one of the most effective attack helicopters in the world. British intelligence say these helicopters are “one of Russia’s most influential single weapon systems” on the front line.

However, ISW said that Ukrainian forces appear to have become more proficient in taking down Ka-52 helicopters since mid-August, causing Russian generals to reduce air force in Zaporizhzhia province due to concerns about loss of aircraft and pilots. Therefore, Russia mobilized these attack helicopters to conduct more airstrikes in other areas on the front line, including in Kherson and Luhansk, seemingly to compensate for the weakened forces in these areas.

The Ka-52 has high mobility, is equipped with thick armor and anti-tank missiles with a range of about 15km. Expert Gian Gentile at the RAND Corporation (USA) said these helicopters help Russia stop Ukrainian tanks at a distance, making Ukraine’s air defense system unable to fire back.

ISW did not analyze how Ukraine could have shot down more helicopters. However, The Economist last month quoted expert Nico Lange at the Munich Security Conference (Germany) as saying that Russia had about 100 Ka-52s at the beginning of the campaign, but now it seems there are only 25 left. Defense Express said that the Swedish RBS-70 man-portable air-defense systems supplied to Ukraine have proven effective in attacking helicopters.

According to bulgarianmilitary, On August 17, Ukrainian air defense forces successfully intercepted two advanced Russian Ka-52 Alligator helicopters. One was brought down using the Swedish RBS-70 MANPADS. The viral video circulating on Platform X, formerly known as Twitter. This use of the RBS-70 MANPADS, a fact corroborated by video evidence, marks the first tangible proof of Ukraine employing this system in a combat scenario.

Ukraine is still trying to penetrate Russia’s formidable defense system in the south of Zaporizhzhia province to reach the strategically important city of Melitopol. Although some progress has been achieved, Ukraine has not yet made a decisive breakthrough. ISW said that Ukraine’s ability to deal with the Ka-52 has improved, but Kiev has not been able to seriously weaken Russia’s defense capabilities. Russian forces appear to be increasing their use of drones to prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing, while Russian artillery units continue to play a key role in repelling Ukrainian attacks.

In a recent development, Russia has unveiled its secret weapon – the upgraded KA-52M attack helicopter – in Southern Ukraine. This advanced variant, which had not been previously seen in combat. A notable upgrade in the KA-52M is the integration of the new anti-tank missile LMUR. With this addition, KA-52 crews can now effectively use extended-range weapons to counter Ukraine’s air defense systems, showcasing Russia’s intent to dominate the airspace.

Russian press reports published in September 2023 showed that the Ka-52M helicopter is now equipped with a ventral all-round radar station to allow it to undertake all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance and target acquisition missions. “The Ka-52M attack helicopters will receive a new all-round radar station operating in the centimeter range. These stations will allow helicopters to detect a wide range of air and ground targets, such as enemy aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, armored vehicles, artillery positions, concentrations of manpower and other military personnel, and objects, including in high-detail radio vision mode,” an informed source told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

According to the source, the Ka-52M will be able to use missiles from the Vikhr or Izdeliye 305 family to strike small enemy tank-type targets in conditions of zero optical visibility using only its target designation data, rather than relying on outside sources for information about the enemy targets’ coordinates.

Additionally, the news agency said in its report that it was told by another source earlier this year that the  Ka-52M was now also capable of carrying Izdeliye-305 missiles. The source told the agency that the Russian military was planning to test the helicopter with the new all-around radar station system in Ukraine. Although this information could not be independently corroborated, Ukraine has become a testing ground for the latest capabilities by both sides.

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