Is China Adding Advanced Russian KA-52 Naval Attack Helicopters to Newest Assault Ships?

Photo by Alex Beltyukov via Wikimedia Commons

As previously reported by ADN, communist China is ‘Honing Amphibious Helicopter Assault Capabilities – To Threaten Taiwan, South China Sea.’ And now, multiple sources are reporting that China is buying thirty-six advanced Russian Kamov Ka-52K attack helicopters, known as ‘Spiny Dogfish’ or ‘Mud Shark.’ The Ka-52K is the naval variant of the sleek and formidable Ka-50/52 Alligator attack helicopter.

The ‘Mud Sharks’ unique counter rotating rotors, large stub wings and lack of tail rotor give it excellent speed, maneuverability, and lift. They could greatly enhance the air attack capabilities of China’s Type 075 carriers compared to its current inventory of naval utility helicopters with limited attack capabilities (such as the Z-8, Z-18, and Z-20F).

They would also be far superior to China’s non-naval attack helicopters (the Z-10 and Z-19) that could theoretically launch from amphibious carriers, but are not specifically designed to operate at sea.

Compared to U.S. Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Sea Cobra naval attack helicopter with twin 1,800 horsepower engines, the Ka-52K has twin 2,500-horsepower turboshafts, a greater payload of 4,400 pounds, and a combat radius of 285 miles.

The National Interest explains that:

The Ka-52 also has a thirty-millimeter gun and can mount short-range anti-aircraft missiles that could be effective against slower flying aircraft, as well as long-range Vikhr and Ataka anti-tank missiles, rocket pods, and additional gun pods. It also boasts a suite of countermeasures to give it a chance of dodging anti-aircraft missiles. 

The Mud Shark’s long-range radar also allows it to fire the large Kh-35 anti-ship missiles with a range of eighty miles (or 160 miles if using the latest Kh-35U variant).

If the Ka-25 purchase is confirmed, the most likely employment for these powerful naval attack birds would be on the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLANs) growing fleet of large Type 075 Landing Helicopter Docks (LHD) similar to U.S. Navy/Marine Corps Wasp-class amphibious assault ships.

As the National Interest notes:

These are large amphibious carriers designed to deploy both helicopters and landing craft full of troops and vehicles onto possibly hostile shores. The Type 075 has a maximum capacity of thirty helicopters, and its huge deck has spots for six helicopters to land or take off with simultaneously. In January, China launched the third of eight Type-075s on order. 

Type 075s would play an especially critical role in the contingency of an invasion of Taiwan, or in conflicts over disputed islands in the South China Sea. 

While their primary role would be ferrying ground forces to shore, attack helicopters could provide desperately needed close air support against hard targets while being (in theory) more likely to survive lethal short-range air defenses. Attack helicopters could also substitute for carrier-based jets in expeditionary deployments against less formidable adversaries.

China appears very serious about developing a full amphibious assault capability to include the latest Russian navalized attack helicopters. This is something both U.S. and Taiwanese defense planners are sure to be watching closely. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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