The Kamov Ka-52 coaxial attack helicopter that was one of the Russian stars at the Paris air show in 2013 has got a naval variant. The new modification, dubbed Ka-52K, started factory flight trials at the Progress Arseniev Aviation Company, in Russia’s Far East, in March. According to Andrey Shibitov, Deputy CEO of Russian Helicopters, Progress’ parent holding company, the government evaluation tests with the Russian navy are expected to start this year. The first order from the Navy may include 15 rotorcraft, he said.

Last year the Russian military mentioned the plan to purchase 32 Ka-52K helicopters, with delivery in 2015-2016. But this variant may also be useful beyond the naval application.

The development of the naval variant started in 2011 when Russia ordered two Mistral-class landing docks worth 1.2 billion euros from the STX France shipyard. Although France postponed delivery of both ships – Vladivostok and Sevastopol – to Russia due the Ukrainian crisis, it didn’t stop the Ka-52K program. “We build our own landing ships and will need such a helicopter like Ka-52K for our surface fleet,” Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov explained earlier. “So it would be wrong to link the completion of the helicopter development to the delivery or non-delivery of the Mistrals.”

The main difference in the naval variant from the basic Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter is the folding main rotor blades and folding half-wings. The new version will also be adapted for naval use by increased corrosion protection and an adjusted air conditioning system. Ka-52K will receive a special avionics suite to enable instrument landing on the ship's deck. The crew life support system will be upgraded to allow the pilots to work in immersion suits.

The naval version will have a GOES-451 gyro-stabilized electro-optical station and inherit the Arbalet millimeter-wave radar with a 25-km detection range. Ka-52K may get a new dual band radar in the future that will enable it to use anti-ship weapons, but as for now it has the same weapons package as the basic variant. This includes a built-in 30 mm 2A42 automatic cannon and S-8 unguided rockets, laser-guided Vikhr (AT-12) or radio-guided Ataka-V antitank missiles or Strelets air defense set with Igla missiles attached on the wing stations.

Shibitov explained that the Ka-52K variant may also serve as an upgrade for the aircraft’s basic version already being delivered to the Russian air force. Russian Helicopters currently has a contract with the air force for delivery of 146 Ka-52s of the type through 2020. This type was taken into service in 2011 as a reconnaissance and combat helicopter. The military’s plans call for the replacement of some of these rotorcraft with the Ka-52K variant, Shibitov said.