“The best Ka-52 crews got shot down early in the war while trying to penetrate deep behind Ukrainian lines. Now less-skilled crews themselves are easy targets for ever-bolder Ukrainian air-defenders.
“In summary, the Russian attack helicopter fleet was initially used to conduct aggressive hunter-killer sorties behind Ukrainian frontlines, with penetration depths of up to 50 kilometers [31 miles] relatively common,” Justin Bronk, Nick Reynolds and Jack Watling wrote in their definitive study of the Ukraine air war’s early months.
“Russian tactics shifted during March, with penetrating sorties becoming less and less common,” Bronk, Reynolds and Watling added. “Despite this cautious approach, they continue to be shot down regularly.””
“The Ka-52 on paper is one of the best attack helicopters in the world. With its better optics, night-vision devices and precision missiles than the other main Russian gunship types possess, the Mil Mi-24 and Mil Mi-28, the Ka-52 initially was a specialist. The Russian air force assigned the type to support special operations forces, especially at night.
The Ka-52 crews’ superior training—a prerequisite for commando ops—made them invaluable to Russian planners in the first few weeks of the invasion of Ukraine, as haphazardly-prepared Russian brigades barrelled across the border with Ukraine and headed toward Kyiv. The goal: to destroy the Ukrainian government and force the Ukrainian armed forces to surrender.”
Comment: Helicopters are very vulnerable to ground fire of all types. In Afghanistan we provided MANPADS to the mujahideen to force the big, heavy Soviet gunships down to low levels where they were often shot down with heavy machine guns. In VN I saw NVA infantry duel with Cobras using RPG-7s and they frequently hit the Cobras. AT Ap Bu Nho a battalion of the 141st NVA infantry in well prepared positions shot down four Hueys of the 1st Cavalry Division just as they were lifting off after landing their troops. I watched them burn on the LZ. I was shot down once when a strap-hanger passenger in a LOH banging along Route 13 on the way to An Loc. I was in the back on the bench seat with the crew chief. Whatever hit us smashed the transmission. The LOH was a very sturdy beast, and the egg-shaped fuselage saved us. The rotors, transmission and skids all broke off as we rolled along the ground. Nobody was badly injured, so we got the two M-60 machine guns and a radio out of the wreck and prepared to defend ourselves from behind a pile of cut down trees. The rescue party showed up pretty quickly in the form of a Cobra Light Fire Team and a Huey. The Cobras beat the terrain around us and the Huey picked us up. pl