KA - 50 Black Shark

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  1. Milos Sijacki

    Milos Sijacki Member

    Nov 9, 2006
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    The Kamov Ka-50 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 of Arseniev. Kamov also designed a two-seat variant, the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator (NATO reporting name: "Hokum B"). During the late-1990s, Israeli Air Industries developed a tandem-seat cockpit version with Kamov, the Kamov Ka-50-2 Erdogan (Turkish for "Born Warrior"), to compete against the AH-64 Apache and the AH-1 SuperCobra in Turkey's competition to select an attack helicopter.

    The Ka-50 is unique as an attack helicopter in that it is the world's first and only single seat attack helicopter, the first coaxial attack helicopter, and the first attack helicopter with zero-zero ejection seat developed by NPP Zvezda.

    Design and Development:

    The Hokum was designed to be small, fast, and agile to improve survivability and lethality. For minimal weight and size (thus maximal speed and agility) it was -- uniquely among gunships -- to be operated by a single pilot only. 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 don't simultaneously demand navigation, maneuvering, and weapons operation of the pilot; and thus with well-designed support automation a single pilot can indeed carry out the entire mission alone. However, it is still an unanswered question whether in practice the rank and file of Black Shark pilots would nevertheless suffer from excess fatigue from this combined workload.

    Like other Kamov's 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 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. 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 waste up to 30% of engine power. (To begin with, Black Shark's Klimovs offer more shaft horsepower, some 2200 shp apiece, than e.g. Apache's General Electric turboshafts, at 1890 shp, which contributes to the superb performance.) Furthermore, the vulnerable boom and rear gearbox are fairly common causes of helicopter losses in combat (as proven in Vietnam); the Black Shark's entire transmission presents a comparatively small target to ground fire. Kamov maintains that the co-axial drive assembly is built to survive hits from 23mm ammunition like the other vital parts of the helicopter. The zero native torque also allows the aircraft to be fairly immune to wind strength and direction, and to have an unsurpassed turn rate in all travel speed envelopes.

    As the single seat configuration was considered too revolutionary to be discovered by NATO, false windows were painted on the first two prototypes. The "windows" evidently worked as the first western reports of the aircraft were wildly inaccurate. According to the Air Force Magazine Soviet Aerospace Almanac 1989, the "DoD states that this helicopter has not been observed carrying antitank guided weapons. Instead, it is thought to have a primary air-to-air role (an assessment that is not universally accepted)... Like other combat helicopters, 'hokum' has a crew of two, in tandem, with an elevated rear seat."

    The Ka-50 was the first helicopter fitted with an ejector seat for improved pilot survivability; this was also seen as a psychological factor enhancing the pilot's combat courage. Before the rocket in the K-37-800 ejection seat kicks in, rotor blades are blown away by explosive charges in the rotor disc and the canopy is similarly jettisoned.

    The first Ka-50 prototype was nicknamed "Werewolf", however Kamov's official name for the type is "Black Shark". As the Soviet Union's collapse vastly reduced military spending before Ka-50 could go into full-scale production, a relatively small number of these aircraft have been built. Reportedly Ka-50's development took place in record time, as Kamov had the forethought of placing liaison engineers at major component suppliers and systems subcontractors.

    Finally, Ka-50 and its modifications have been chosen as the special forces support helicopter while Mi-28 has become main army's gunship. The production of Ka-50 has been recommenced in 2006.


    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 2,300 kg depending on the mix.

    The main armament are the twelve laser-guided Vikhr anti-tank missiles with a maximum range of some 10 km. The laser guidance is reported to be virtually jam-proof and the system features automatic guidance to target enabling evasive movement 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 also can input target information from ground-based forward scouts with man-portable target designation gear. The integrated 30mm cannon is semi-rigidly fixed on the helicopter's side, movable only slightly in elevation and azimuth. The aircraft's agility allows the weapon control system to turn (the entire helicopter and) the cannon at the target acquired in the pilot's helmet sight about as fast as the cannon turret of the Apache or the Mil-28 turns. The semi-rigid mounting improves the cannon's accuracy, giving the 30mm a longer practical range and better hit ratio at medium ranges than with a free-turning turret mount.

    Ka-50-2 Erdogan:

    In 1997, Israeli Air Industries (IAI) in cooperation with the Kamov bureau entered a Turkish design competition for a $4 billion contract for 145 (later changed to 50) combat helicopters. The helicopter designed for the competition became the Ka-50-2 Erdogan, a tandem cockpit twin-seater variant of the Ka-50 that featured a modern, Israeli-made "glass cockpit" avionics and a turret-mounted side-folding (for landing clearance) 30mm cannon as opposed to the fixed cannon of the Ka-50. (A similar Italian turret is also offered as a modification to the Ka-50.) The Erdogan beat the Eurocopter and Apache helicopters, but lost to an improved version of AH-1 Cobra. At the end the contract went to the Italian A-129 Mangusta [1]. Kamov is still looking for a buyer, since the Russian military doesn't have the funding to purchase it themselves.

    Operational history:

    In January 2001, the Ka-50 saw its first combat operation, as it fired on enemy positions in Chechnya. Later, it would undertake several missions inside that war zone, although not as much as the more numerous Mil Mi-24 which is perhaps better suited to the more anti-guerrilla-type operations undertaken there.

    General characteristics:

    * Crew: One (For Ka-52: two)
    * Length: 13.50 m (44 ft 3 in)
    * Rotor diameter: 2x 14.50 m (2x 47 ft 7 in)
    * Height: 5.4 m (17 ft 9 in)
    * Disc area: 330.3 m² (3,555 ft²)
    * Empty weight: 7,800 kg (17,200 lb)
    * Loaded weight: 9,800 kg (21,600 lb)
    * Max takeoff weight: 10,800 kg (23,810 lb)
    * Powerplant: 2× Klimov TV3-117VK turboshafts, 1,660 kW (2,226 shp) each.

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