As the Russian Navy’s carrier group continues its voyage from Severomorsk to the East Mediterranean, not inconsiderable aircraft activity has been noted, with both Sukhoi Su-33 fighters and Kamov Ka-27 search and rescue/plane guard helicopters flying off. Today, for the first time, images appeared showing a Ka-52K attack helicopter on the deck of the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
The Ka-52K shipborne attack helicopter program was launched thanks to the planned fast-track procurement of the Mistral-class amphibious assault, command, and power-projection ships, built at the STX shipyard in St Nazaire, France. After the contract between France and Russia was terminated, these ships were instead delivered to Egypt, leaving the Admiral Kuznetsov as the main platform for the Ka-52K.
The Ka-52K, sometimes known by the name Katran (spiny dogfish), introduces a plethora of naval-specific features such as folding rotor blades, folding wings, life-support systems for the crew, emergency flotation gear, and anti-corrosion treatment of the fuselage, while retaining the weapons control system and the ordnance of its land-based predecessor almost unchanged.
In the longer term, the shipborne Ka-52K is due to receive a new radar, an Arbalet-52 derivative, featuring an additional centimetric-wavelength channel, capable of detecting large ships at a distance of 81 to 97nm (150 to 180km), which is about 10 times greater than that of the original Arbalet-52 as used in the land-based Ka-52.
Seen here in a photograph taken earlier this week by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, the Admiral Kuznetsov is set to complete a four-month deployment to the East Mediterranean, from where it is expected to participate in operations over Syria, perhaps including the final offensive for the city of Aleppo.
The carrier group comprises Admiral Kuznetsov, together with a nuclear battlecruiser, two destroyers, a tanker and a rescue tug.
More details of the Admiral Kuznetsov’s deployment will appear in future issues of Combat Aircraft.
UPDATES: As the Admiral Kuznetsov sailed through the English Channel on October 21, video broadcast by ITV News revealed an example of the Ka-31R airborne early warning and control helicopter on deck. The helicopter is one of only two Ka-31R versions completed for the Russian Navy so far. It seems the Russian MoD is keen to provide a show-and-tell of the different aircraft it is embarking:
On November 1, the Russian Ministry of Defense released footage showing the Russian naval battle group in the western Mediterranean Sea, including flying activity aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov. While a Ka-27PS search and rescue helicopter undertook plane-guard duties, unarmed Su-33 and MiG-29KR fighters conducted launch and recovery cycles: