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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
Ka-52: 25 June 1997[3][4]
Introduction 28 August 1995
Status Limited service
Primary user Russian Air Force (VVS)
Number built Ka-50: ~10[5]
Ka-52: 5(prot.) + 35(serial)[6][7]
Unit cost
500 million rubles (approx. $16 million) as of May 2011[8]

The Kamov Ka-50 "Black Shark" ([Чёрная акула; Chornaya Akula] Error: {{Lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help) 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.[2]

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).[9]


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.[10] Development of the helicopter was first reported in the West in 1984. The first photograph appeared in 1989.[11] 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.[10]

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.[12]

The Ka-50 was designed to be small, fast and agile to improve survivability and lethality. For minimal weight and size (thus maximum speed and agility) it was—uniquely among gunships—to be operated by a single pilot only. The Ka-50 carries one 2A42 30-mm gun. The gun is mounted near the centre of fuselage. It has 460 rounds of ammunition, high-fragmentation and explosive incendiary rounds and armour-piercing rounds.[13]

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.[citation needed] 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.[14]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

The single-seat configuration was considered undesirable by NATO. The first two Ka-50 prototypes had false windows painted on them.[15] 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 for hunting and killing NATO attack helicopters.[16] 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.[17] 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.[citation needed]

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.[18]

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.[19] 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 Infra-Red (FLIR) systems.[20] Kamov drafted a design in 1993 that included the Shkval-N sighting system with an infrared sensor.[19] 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.[20]

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.[12] Neither of the Ka-50 night attack versions have entered full production.[20]

Ka-52 "Alligator"

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.[12]

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 and six wing-mounted hardpoints of the original Ka-50.[21] 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 G-load is 3.0 G (vs. 3.5 G) and hover ceiling is 3,600 m (vs. 4,000 m). The Ka-52 is approved for day, night and adverse meteorological conditions.[22]

Manufacturing of the first Ka-52 airframe began in mid-1996.[12] Serial production was started in autumn 2008.[23] 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.[18] In December 2010, four new, series-production Kamov Ka-52s were delivered to the Air Base,[24] 344th Centre for Combat Training and Aircrew Conversion.[25]

Serial 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)[26]

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.[27] A second batch of 36 helicopters will be inducted to service in early 2012.[18]

Mistral class amphibious assault ships, ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry,[28] 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 (RNA). 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. RNA will need no fewer then 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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[30]

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.[30]

Turkey initially selected an improved version of AH-1 SuperCobra over the Erdogan, Eurocopter Tiger, AH-64 Apache, AH-2 Rooivalk, and A129 Mangusta. In the end, the contract went to the A129 in 2007.[31]


The aircraft carries a substantial load of weapons in four external hardpoints under the stub wings plus two on the wingtips, a total of some 2,000 kg depending on the mix.[32]

The main 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. The fire control system automatically shares all target information among the four Black Sharks of a typical flight in real time, allowing one helicopter to engage a target spotted by another, and the system can also input target information from ground-based forward scouts with personnel-carried target designation gear.[citation needed] The Ka-50 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.[33] The integrated 30 mm cannon is semi-rigidly fixed on the helicopter's side, movable only slightly in elevation and azimuth. The 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.[citation needed]

Operational history

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

File:Aviation Ka-52 Attack Helicopter.jpg

A pair of Russian KA-52s

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.[12]

It is unclear if the type has been used in combat since. It has participated in a number of exercises, including "Boundary 2004" which took place on the Edelweiss mountain range in Kyrgyzstan, in August 2004. Once again 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 successfully worked on the ground targets using its cannons and rockets.[12]

India issued a request for proposal for 22 attack helicopters for the Indian Air Force in May 2008.[34] The Kamov Ka-50 along with the Mil Mi-28 and the Eurocopter Tiger were the front-runners for this order as of October 2008.[35] The tender though was eventually cancelled and later India announced a new tender, with revised conditions. Russia again offered Mi-28N and Ka-52.

Russia is receiving Ka-52s as of January 2011.[36] On 22 February 2013, the Russian Air Force base in Krasnodar received the first batch of Ka-52 helicopters for training in March.[37]


  • Kamov V-80 : Prototype version for Ka-50.
  • Kamov Ka-50 : Single-seat version.
  • Kamov Ka-50N : Ka-50 with improved 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" ([Аллигатор] Error: {{Lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help), NATO reporting name: Hokum B) version with a two-seat side-by-side cockpit.



Incidents and accidents

Ka-50 "Bort 22" with a distinctive "Black Shark" livery was lost in a crash on 17 June 1998. Its pilot Maj. Gen. Boris Vorobyov was killed in the crash.[12] Cause of the accident has been attributed to the "helicopter's co-axial rotor blades hitting each other during hard manoeuvring".[40]

A Ka-52 crashed during a training flight, near Torzhok on 13 March 2012, killing both pilots. An investigation was initiated.[40]

A Ka-52K crashed in southeast Moscow on 29 October 2013 during flight tests for future deployments on Russian Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. Preliminary investigations indicated that the source of the crash was due to a "malfunction of the ejector (seat) mechanism" which caused it to activate involuntarily.[41] The Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) reported that there were no fatalities and that the pilots ejected safely from the aircraft, but suffered "trauma injuries".[42]


Kamov Ka-50 Hokum graphic.gif
Data for Ka-50, differences for Ka-52 noted.

Data from Ka-50-page,[43] Ka-52-page,[21] Donald and March[14] Aerospaceweb[44]

General characteristics

  • Crew: One (for Ka-52: two)
  • Length: 16.0 m (52 ft 6 in)
  • Rotor diameter: 14.5 m (47 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 4.93 m (16 ft 2 in)
  • Disc area: 330.3 m² (3,555 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 7,700 kg (17,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 9,800 kg (21,600 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 10,800 kg (23,810 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Klimov TV3-117VK turboshafts, 1,641 kW (2,200 shp) each
  • For Ka-52:
    • Loaded weight: 10,400 kg (22,930 lb)


  • Never exceed speed: 350 km/h (189 knots, 217 mph) in dive
  • Maximum speed: 315 km/h (170 knots, 196 mph) in level flight
  • Cruise speed: 270 km/h (146 knots, 168 mph)
  • Range: 545 km (339 miles)
  • Ferry range: 1,160 km(720 mi)with 4 drop tanks
  • Service ceiling: 5,500 m (18,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 10 m/s (32.8 ft/s)
  • Disc loading: 30 kg/m² (6 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 0.33 kW/kg (0.20 hp/lb)


  • Guns: 1x mobile semi-rigid 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 cannon (460 rounds total, dual feeding AP or HE-Frag)
  • Hardpoints: 4 with a capacity of 2,000 kg and provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: 80 x 80 mm S-8 rockets and 20 x 122 mm S-13 rocket,
    • Missiles: 2 x 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: 4x 250 kg (550 lb) bombs or 2x 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).[32]
  • 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


  1. Donald and Marsh 2004, pp. 304–05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Russian Scout Helicopters Get Stronger., 29 January 2010.
  5. KA-50 Hocum/ Werewolf,
  6. KA-52 Alligator,
  8. Вертолеты Ка-52 начали службу в Дальневосточном объединении ВВС и ПВО
  9. Hewson, R. The Vital Guide to Military Aircraft, p. 58. England: Airlife Publishing Ltd, 2001.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Donald and Marsh 2004, pp. 310–11.
  11. "Kamov Ka-50 Chernaya Akula". Jane's All the World's Aircraft. Jane's Information Group, 2009. (subscription article, dated 14 September 2009).
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Andrey Fomin. "Kamov Warriors". Combat Aircraft, July 2005. Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 64–73.
  13. "Ka-50 photos and video".
  14. 14.0 14.1 Donald and Marsh 2004, p. 310.
  15. Eden, Paul. Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. p. 223, Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
  16. Encyclopedia Of World Air Power, 1985, ISBN 978-0517537541.
  17. Donald and Marsh 2004, p. 308.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Alexander Mladenov. September 2010. "Reforming a formidable foe". Air Forces Monthly. Issue 269, p.62-68.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Donald and Marsh 2004, pp. 311–314.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Ka-50N".
  21. 21.0 21.1 Ka-52 product page. Kamov.
  22. "Ka-52".
  23. Началось серийное производство вертолетов Ка-52 (Full scale production of Ka-52 has begun) (Russian), (translated to English)
  24. Sergy Aleksandrov. April 2011. "Four new Ka-52s delivered to Torzhok". Air Forces Monthly. Issue 277, p.29
  25. "More Ka-52s for Russian AF". Combat Aircraft. Vol.12, No.4, p.16.
  27. Unique Russian helicopter can hit target from eight kilometers. RIA Novosti
  28. "French warships for Russia to be armed with Ka-52 helicopters". RIA Novosti, 14 August 2010.
  29. Mladenov, Alexander. "Force Report: Russian Navy". Air Forces Monthly. Issue 286, p. 80, January 2012.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Ka-50-2 Erdogan., 9 November 2008.
  31. "Turkey picks A129 in delayed attack helicopter competition". Flight International, 10 April 2007.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Ka-50 Black Shark – Attack Helicopter, Russian Army – Air Force Technology
  33. Ugroza precision-guided weapon system based on S-8, S-13 and S-24 aircraft rockets
  34. "India to Buy 22 Attack Helos for $550M". Defense News,
  35. Govindasamy, Siva. "Bell, Boeing quit Indian attack helicopter contest". Flight International, 10 October 2008.
  36. Russian Air Force to receive Ka-52 helicopters. RIA Novosti
  38. "World Air Forces 2013". Retrieved 10-March-2013. 
  39. "Russia to supply Ka-52 helicopters to Iraq". 17 June 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 "Two Die in Ka-52 Helicopter Crash in Russia". RIA Novosti, 15 March 2012.
  41. "Russian Military Helicopter Crashes in Moscow, Two Injured", RIA Novosti (29 October 2013)
  42. "Ka-52 helicopter crashes in Moscow near residential neighborhood", Russia Today (29 October 2013)
  43. Ka-50 product page. Kamov.
  44. Ka-50/52 page.
  • Donald, David, and Daniel J. March. "Ka-50/52, Kamov's 'Hokum' family". Modern Battlefield Warplanes. AIRtime Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-880588-76-5.
  • Eden, Paul, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London, UK: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9CITEREFEden2004. 

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