Kamov did very well with the Ka-50 helicopter and its variants. They are well robust and extensively protected from small arms fire and even larger caliber guns.
First appeared during World ധąɾ 2, helicopters with powerful firepower and high maneuverability contributed to completely changing the battlefield situation. With strong and flexible combat capability in all types of terrain, armed helicopters are increasingly used by the armed forces, and they are becoming more and more sophisticated. Among the best attack helicopters today, it is impossible not to mention the Ka-50 Black Shark. Kamov did very well with the Ka-50 helicopter and its variants. They are well robust and extensively protected from small arms fire and even larger caliber guns.
The West first learned about the existence of the Black Shark Ka-50 in the mid-1980s of the last century. The Ka-50 was planned to rival the Mi-28 in a competition in the mid-1970s, to provide the Soviet armed forces with a new battlefield helicopter. At that time, the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter was the backbone of Soviet Army Aviation. The Soviet Ministry of Defense predicted that it would not meet the Army’s requirements in the future, and needed a replacement. Ka-50 was developed from the prototype V-80Sh-1. The production was ordered by the Soviet Council of Ministers in December 1987.
But the Soviet Union collapsed afterwards, and the defense budget was cut, the Ka-50 was produced in limited quantities 10 aircraft instead of several hundred as planned. In the early 2000s, the Russian army reassessed these helicopters, but the number was only 32. Another Ka-50 variant, the Ka-52, was later developed, but only more than 100 were produced. Ka-50 and its modifications were primarily used to support special forces, while Mil Mi-28 has become the army’s main gunship.
Ka-50 Black Shark is also known as Hokum A, identified by the West. Typically, attack helicopters will have two pilots to share work, but Kamov has chosen a design that has only single crew. The pilot will have to handle both flight and navigation duties, as well as the role of a gunner. Ka-50 was initially envisioned as a heavily armed scout helicopter. And according to Kamov’s philosophy, one crew member is sufficient. Ka-50 will save weight for more armor, more ωεɑρσռs and sensors. But actually, the pilot’s workload is enormous, perhaps this is also why Kamov had to change the design of the later Ka-52 version, with a two-man crew.
Ka-50 is the first helicopter in the world equipped with a rescue ejection system. An NPP Zvezda K-37-800 ejection seat is fitted, allowing pilots to escape at all altitudes and speeds. To ensure pilots’ safety, the rotor blades will be blown away by an explosion in the rotor disc. The basic specifications of Ka-50 include a length of 16m (52 ft 6 in), a height of 4.93m (16 ft 2 in), main rotor diameter of 14.5m (47 ft 7 in). The helicopter has an empty weight of 7.7 tons (16,976 lb), while the maximum takeoff weight is 10.8 tons (23,810 lb).
Instead of a main blade rotor and a tail rotor assembly like other popular helicopter designs, the Ka-50 uses a characteristic coaxial contra-rotating rotor system and complete removal of the tail rotor. The rotor blades are made from polymer materials. These two main rotors spin in opposite directions and give the KA-50 a very high degree of maneuverability and performance when compared to typical tail-rotor helicopters. Absence of the tail rotor enables the helicopter to perform flat turns within the entire flight speed range. Flight systems include inertial navigation system, autopilot and head-up display. Sensors include forward-looking infrared and terrain-following radar.
Behind the cockpit is the area where the engines are located. The stub wings are arranged right under these engines, a total of 4 hard points for ωεɑρσռs. The wing tips are equipped with defensive anti-missile suite in the form of chaff and flare dispensers. According to information from Russian media, K-50 armor can protect against 12.7 mm armour-piercing bullets and 23 mm projectile fragments. The rotor blades are rated to withstand several hits of ground-based automatic ωεɑρσռs. The undercarriage consists of three retractable landing gears, plus the IR-suppressed exhausts, making Ka-50 significantly reduce infrared signature. Self-sealed fuel tanks also help Black Shark increase survival on the battlefield.
The Ka-50 is equipped with two Klimov VK-2500 turboshaft engines, producing 2,400 hp each. The removal of the tail rotor assembly also directly increases the overall maximum speed of the helicopter, making it one of the fastest attack helicopters. Black Sharks can reach a maximum speed of 315 km/h (196 mph), a cruise speed of 270 km/h (170 mph). Operating range up to 545 km (339 mi), combat radius of 470 km (290 mi), ferry range of 1,160 km (720 mi), service ceiling of 5,500m (18,000 ft) and rate of climb of 12 meters per second.
Like all attack helicopters, the Ka-50’s power lies in the ωεɑρσռs it carries. The basic armament is a 30 mm Shipunov 2A42 cannon mounted near the centre of fuselage, which can fire at a rate of 200 to 800 rounds per minute. Unlike the Mi-24 Hind heavy attack helicopter, the Black Shark is designed for more stealthy actions, pick off enemy armored vehicles from as far as five miles away, using guided missiles to destroy them. These exceed the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles like the Stinger, ensuring crew safety.
Four hard points on the stub wings plus two on wingtips can carry a large amount of ωεɑρσռs. Black Sharks can carry a total of about 2 tons of mixed ωεɑρσռs. Anti-tank armament comprises twelve laser-guided 9K121 Vikhr anti-tank missiles, with a maximum range of some 8 km. Alternatively it can also use Ataka laser-guided anti-tank missiles.
Other weɑρσռs include Vympel R-73 air-to-air missiles, Kh-25 semi-active laser guided tactical air-to-ground missiles. Ka-50 can also carry several rocket pods, including the S-13 and S-8 rockets. It can also carry four 250 kg bombs (550 lb) or two 500 kg bombs (1,100 lb). The fire control system automatically shares all target information in real time, allowing one helicopter to engage a target spotted by another aircraft, and the system can also input target information from ground-based forward scouts with personnel-carried target designation gear.
Since its introduction in 1995, the Ka-50 has never been exported, serving only the Russian Air Force. Only 46 later Ka-52 variants were exported to Egypt. Although limited in numbers, Black Sharks have gained battle experiences from the Second Chechen ധąɾ, Syrian Civil ധąɾ, and Russian military exercises. With the advantages of speed and flexibility, the Ka-50 will continue to evolve in more sophisticated versions.