Alligators can fly – at MAKS 2009
One of the most powerful and agile fighting helicopters in the world cuts through the air like an arrow. The armor-plated beast KA-52, aka The Alligator, wows the crowds at the MAKS International Air Show near Moscow.
The skies near Moscow are seeing the best of Russian and international aerobatics as the third day of the MAKS International Air Show gets underway.
On the so-called “Moscow Day” officials from the Moscow government are attending the event to strike deals with aircraft makers, as the Russian capital has its very own civic airline and uses different types of aircraft to patrol the skies around the city.
The main deal of the third day worth $1.2 billion is a contract between Russia’s Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) and Moscow’s Atlant-Soyuz Airlines over the lease of 30 AN148-100 and 15 TU-204SM planes.
The first two days of the air show have been quite successful as well, and deals struck include the contract for the supply of 20 Russian helicopters to a company based in the United Arab Emirates and the purchase by Rosavia airline of 65 narrow-body aircraft from domestic and foreign manufacturers.Russia’s Defense Ministry is also busy at the show signing several very important contracts for a whole list of up-to-date fighter jets, the latest-generation KA-52 Alligator attack helicopter and other gadgets. The Defense Ministry has said the new equipment is needed to modernize the Russian military.
Apart from domestic deals signed at the air show there are international agreements as well. One of them has been an agreement between the Russian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, signed on the second day of the exhibition.
ESA will provide ground support to Russian space missions from its stations worldwide, says the head of the Moscow office of ESA, Rene Pischel.
The MAKS International Air Show in Moscow is one of the major air shows of the year, says Boeing Russia/CIS President Sergey Kravchenko, and it’s obvious that the Russian government pays a lot of attention to it despite the economic crisis.
The Russian Air Force Commander has also heralded the MAKS 2009 air show a great success.
“We have a long-term contract to receive Su-34 fighters and we're also planning to purchase the new Yak-30 fighters, modernized Mi-28NM attack helicopters, and the newest Ka-52 helicopters. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered the modernization of the Russian Armed forces, and this obviously includes the Air Force,” Col. Gen. Aleksandr Zelin said.
Moreover, the Russian aviation industry has truly grown in its understanding of avionics, said Robert Hewson from Jane’s Information Group. Hewson added that historically Russia's aircraft designers have been among the best in the world but lacked the systems to build Russian planes to their full potential.
The Moscow Day was opened by solitary KA helicopter carrying a Moscow flag over the MAKS flying field.
The Alligator: more bite than The Black Shark?
The Alligator is armed to the teeth with weapons more advanced and superior than existing combat helicopters.
KA-52 carries a dozen anti-tank missiles which can hit a target eight kilometres away, a powerful 30-mm cannon and a huge battery of rockets work as a defence and aid in ground assaults.
Just like its predecessor KA-50 – The Black Shark – it has no tail rotor which is marks it apart from other flying predators.
Moreover, KA-52’s opposite-spinning blades make it immune to strong winds from all directions. Its simple handling could be crucial in combat. The Alligator can work in almost any weather, day or night. And its unique tail design means it needs less space to land which is handy for working in the mountains, the forest, or even in the city.
Pilots say operating The Alligator is like driving an automatic after driving a manual.
“It’s easier to land and easier to take off. With a tail rotor you have to manage both – that one and the one on top. But here you just don’t think about it. It’s very unfussy,” says elite test pilot Aleksandr Smirnov.
Twin rotor blades are the trademark of the whole family of Kamov (KA) helicopters. They add to the chopper’s manoeuvrability, safety, and they make it easier for pilots to handle the machine. And Kamov is the only brand in the world producing fighting helicopters without tail rotors.
And The Alligator’s aerial acrobatics are only the start as it is equipped with highly-advanced lasers and sophisticated data systems designed to make locating and targeting much easier.
Aleksandr Smirnov has been testing helicopters for thirty years, and says The Alligator is the most reliable chopper he’s ever piloted.
“We’ve never had a radar-location system like the one installed in this chopper. It has a very powerful attack warning system. Here we get accurate information about the objects that are aiming at the helicopter,” Aleksandr Smirnov explains.
One more unique characteristic of The Alligator is its twin-seat cockpit. Sitting side by side, the pilots can co-ordinate their actions better – and each can take control.
“Just imagine – you’re sitting in a car and your co-pilot is sitting behind you… how well can you correlate with him if you don’t see him? And here I can just look him in the eye and see what he's up to in any given situation. It’s like playing piano with four hands,” Aleksandr Smirnov says.
The KA-52 is going through its final tests. If successful, The Alligator can then be released into the wild – and become the powerhouse of Russia’s airborne special units.