Ka-52 and Lancet under threat as Ukraine receives IRIS-T add-ons

Since the start of the Ukrainian counter-offensive early last month, Russian Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters have been a real nightmare. Leopard tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, French ANH-10 tanks, and many more fell victim to the Ka-52.

iris-t missile
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The statement that, in addition to the Ka-52, the Lancet kamikaze drones are also a nightmare for Ukrainians carries the same weight of credibility. The Lancet is a smaller aircraft but its destructive capabilities have been proven so far in the war in Ukraine.

That is why it makes a strong impression, an addition that the Ukrainian army will receive to install on the delivered air defense systems IRIS-T. These are 10 laser targeting devices for the IRIS-T SLM air defense system.

Why is this strange?

The recent updates to the IRIS-T SLM air defense system, which traditionally uses infrared-guided missiles, have raised questions. The IRIS-T SLM has received laser-targeting devices in the latest military aid package, even though its missile guidance does not rely on lasers. Instead, it uses a combination of parameters to identify targets, not just thermal signatures.

German air defense in Ukraine 'quickly spends' the missiles - IRIS-T
Photo credit: Twitter

The Ukrainian IRIS-T SL missile uses advanced navigation technology, including GPS and INS for autonomous navigation. It also uses a radiofrequency [RF] data link for real-time target data updates from an external radar system.

The missile uses a high-accuracy passive infrared seeker for accurate target detection and tracking, improving precision and resilience against countermeasures. Typically, the IRIS-T SLM system does not include an optical target detection station for laser aiming devices. Considering that the IRIS-T SLM missile can target up to 40 km [25 miles], achieving effective laser-beam target identification at such distances is challenging.

Ka-52s and Lancet are most likely the targets

Unraveling the reasons behind the integration of laser guidance systems into the IRIS-T SLM can be quite a puzzle. One could hypothesize that the addition of a missile with semi-active laser guidance is a strategic move to enhance the air defense system. Consider the APKWS targeting system, which notably employs laser illumination for accurate air target tracking.

US sanctions move production of Russian attack helos to the Mideast
Photo credit: YouTube

Theoretically speaking, supplementing the air defense system with APKWS launchers could drastically increase its efficiency. It could provide an economic solution for intercepting threats such as kamikaze drones or helicopters, thereby adding an extra layer of protection.

Missiles with laser guidance can intercept a wide range of airborne targets. Laser guidance allows the missile to track and follow a laser beam that is directed at the target, which provides a high level of accuracy and precision in targeting. This makes laser-guided missiles particularly effective against fast-moving targets that may be difficult to track with other types of guidance systems.

Is there a countermeasure?

In general, helicopters have a better chance of escaping a hit from a laser-guided missile. For example, the Ka-52’s avionics include a laser warning receiver that can detect the presence of a laser beam targeting the helicopter. When the laser warning receiver detects a laser beam, it alerts the pilot and activates the helicopter’s countermeasures system.

Why Russia uses Lancet-3 FPV against Leopard 2A6 - explained
Photo credit: Zala Aero

The countermeasures system of the Ka-52 includes flares and chaff that are released to confuse the guidance system of the laser-guided missile. The flares and chaff create a decoy target that the missile may follow instead of the helicopter.

Additionally, the Ka-52 is equipped with an infrared jammer that can disrupt the guidance system of the laser-guided missile. The jammer emits a signal that interferes with the missile’s ability to track the helicopter.

However, the chance of the Ukrainian armed forces shooting down the Ka-52 with such a missile is increasing. Countermeasures don’t always work. However, this is not the case with kamikaze drones. Lancet does not have the capabilities of the Ka-52, as well as other drones used in the war such as Geren-2 or Shahed 136.

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