Taiwan ‘blitzed’ by China with fictional Ka-52’s 31mi-range missile

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It has come to light that China is vigilantly monitoring the performance of Russia’s Ka-52 Alligator assault helicopter amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to a publication from the U.S.-based think tank, RAND Corporation. Interestingly, this perspective doesn’t emanate from American or Western analysts but is deeply rooted in the viewpoints of Chinese military pundits. 

Photo credit: Dzen.ru

What’s fueling Beijing’s interest in the capabilities of this Russian aircraft? It’s Taiwan. Numerous reports over the past five years suggest an impending assault on Taipei by Beijing, to unify the small island nation of Taiwan with China. In fact, some analyses predict an inevitable conflict between China and Taiwan by 2027, a year that will mark a hundred years since the inception of China’s renewed People’s Liberation Army. 

The report’s author, Lyle Goldstein, underscores that helicopters are expected to be a central component of any Chinese strategy intended for claiming Taiwan. According to Goldstein, these airborne vehicles could offer extensive aerial protection and firepower to amphibious forces landing ashore in a hypothetical Taiwan invasion scenario. What’s more, there’s a persistent buzz [despite the lack of formal confirmations over several years] that China might acquire a significant number of Russian Ka-52 helicopters. These would be deployed as deck-based naval helicopters on Type 075 amphibious assault ships.

Photo credit: Rosoboronexport

The range, as a Chinese strategy

Digging into the specifics, it’s clear that China’s interest in the Ka-52 centers heavily on the helicopter’s impressive range. However, the focus here isn’t on how far this helicopter can travel per se, but rather on the extent of its ability to identify and monitor potential threats. There are predictions that Russia will upgrade the Ka-52 with a superior detection and tracking system. This improved system can reach an impressive distance of up to 31 miles [50 km]. 

At the heart of the Ka-52’s capabilities are its sensors, integral for threat detection and surveillance. Included in the array are radar systems capable of detecting and tracking numerous targets from considerable distances. Additionally, infrared or thermal imaging sensors augment the helicopter’s capabilities. These sensors pick up heat signals, proving to be ideally suited for identifying personnel or vehicles under the cover of darkness or less-than-ideal visibility conditions. 

Furthermore, the Ka-52 employs electro-optical sensors. These unique systems integrate infrared sensors with visible light, delivering high-resolution imagery to pilots, irrespective of the lighting situation. Let’s not overlook acoustic sensors, essential for spotting and tracking both submarines and surface vessels.

New weapons for the sensors

In 2020, Russia announced that its Ka-52 helicopters would be equipped with new long-range weaponry, according to a report from TASS, a Russian news agency. The upgrade process in June 2020 equipped the Ka-52 with a new long-range cruise missile, named “Item 305,” previously armed on the Mi-28NM combat helicopter. The official procurement documentation indicates that the upgraded helicopter would feature a new interface device for the missile, an inbuilt launcher, and a radio link for missile operation. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The upgraded helicopter was also slated to receive a 24/7 surveillance system and advanced onboard communication and data exchange systems. Other features also consist of satellite navigation gear and a range of different devices. A 2020 TASS report stated that by year-end, all Ka-52s were expected to be modernized. However, it is currently unclear whether the modernization was applied to the entire fleet or just a fraction of it. 

Also, in February 2020, a TASS source noted that the upgraded Ka-52M would be designed to carry the newest “Item 305” cruise missiles, boasting an operational range of up to 15 kilometers. According to another source from Russia’s domestic defense industry, in March 2019, the “item 305,” a new air-to-air missile, was being tested aboard a Mi-28NM helicopter, in the real battlefield conditions of Syria.

LMUR

Indeed, ‘item 305’ refers to an advanced air-to-surface LMUR missile, specifically engineered for helicopter launch. This modern weaponry is a crucial part of the arsenal of the Russian army. The LMUR missile is relatively lightweight, weighing in at about 50 kilograms, which enables a variety of aircraft, including helicopters and drones, to transport it effortlessly. 

Dimensionally speaking, the LMUR missile is fairly compact, with a length of approximately 2.5 meters and a diameter close to 130 millimeters. These compact measurements enhance its versatility and ease of use. Notably, the LMUR rocket is powered by a solid propellant, a renowned propulsion system celebrated for its reliable and efficient performance. This gives the missile impressive speed and agility. 

Photo by Piotr Butowski

Equipped with a high-explosive warhead, the LMUR missile packs a substantial punch. Designed to unleash massive destruction upon impact, the LMUR has established itself as a significant resource in neutralizing enemy targets. It has a range of roughly 8 kilometers. This range offers the LMUR missile an advantage as it can effectively handle targets from a safe distance, thus diminishing risks to the launch platform. All of these attributes make the LMUR missile a sophisticated tool in modern warfare.

China is monitoring Ka-52 tactics as well

As outlined in the publication by RAND Corporation, Chinese assessments heavily rely on data gathered by the UK’s Ministry of Defense. This data indicates an alarming decline in Russian army resources, citing a loss of at least 39 Ka-52 helicopters during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine; a critical depletion of their fleet. 

This significant loss has been attributed to the flawed tactical usage of these helicopters, which necessitated direct exposure to Ukraine’s Army air defense action. It has resulted in widespread consternation among Western observers, who had predicted a higher efficacy rate for the Ka-52. 

Photo credit: Special-Ops

Despite this setback, Chinese military commentators noted a distinct turning point in the battles that took place in southern Ukraine in the summer of 2023. The Russian troops were able to devise a new strategy for the Ka-52s’ role on the battlefield, dubbed the “knock and hide” tactic. This approach primarily utilized long-range guided missiles that spanned approximately 10 kilometers, posing a significant challenge to the operational efficiency of Ukraine’s army air defenses.

A missile with a 31-mile range?

Interestingly enough, it appears that the Chinese have inferred that the Russian military-industrial complex is working on equipping the Ka-52 with the capability to hit targets from a range of 31 miles. These claims, however, have not been endorsed by the Russians themselves. 

This analysis also provides insight into how the Chinese interpret the Russian Federation’s conflict with Ukraine, and how these perspectives are translated by American analysts. Nonetheless, as your reliable source here at BulgarianMilitary.com, we feel obligated to clarify there is, as of yet, no confirmation that Russia has begun supplying the Ka-52Ks designed for aircraft carriers to China. Additionally, there is no existing evidence suggesting the development of a helicopter-mounted missile with a range of 31 miles [50 km] is underway.

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