This month, Eurasian Times claimed that a Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter with the Vitebsk-25 countermeasures suite recently evaded 18 missiles while on a combat mission in Ukraine, jamming the missiles, completing its mission, and returning to base unharmed.
Battered in the opening phases of the Ukraine war, Russia’s attack helicopter fleet now sports new technology and tactics to blunt Ukraine’s ongoing offensive.
Eurasian Times states that Vitebsk-25 consists of an infrared (IR) missile tracker and laser countermeasures, augmented by a flare dispenser to blind IR missiles.
It also says the system can detect and jam threats across 120 degrees azimuth and 60 degrees elevation, jamming radar frequencies from 4 to 18 gigahertz. In describing how the system works, Eurasian Times says Vitebsk-25 operates in passive and active modes.
In passive mode, the report notes that the system scans an area with radar, radar and laser warning receivers, and IR and ultraviolet (UV) sensors, dispensing chaff and flares automatically if a missile launch is detected.
In active mode, the source states that Vitebsk-25 directly engages the IR seeker head of an incoming missile, possibly blinding it by laser.
The system may also be effective against multi-mode missiles, as the source states it uses powerful jamming to disrupt radar-guided missiles, forcing them to shift into IR guidance and go after decoy flares.
Comparable Western systems may include the Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) suite installed on over 100 US Army helicopters. An attack helicopter is one of the most potent armor-killing weapons on the modern battlefield.
Frank Barnaby estimates in the book The Role and Control of Weapons in the 1990’s that one helicopter in battle should be able to destroy 17 times its value in tanks before being killed, excluding the cost of supporting and maintaining the tanks.
Russia operates several attack helicopter models including the Mi-24, Mi-28, and Ka-52.
A November 2022 report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) notes that Russia initially used its attack helicopters to conduct aggressive hunter-killer sorties up to 50 km behind Ukrainian front lines but was forced to change tactics due to heavy losses.
Of Russia’s attack helicopter fleet, the RUSI report mentions that the Ka-52 has seen more intensive use than other models, noting that may be due to its use of the 9K121 Vikhr anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), which has a rear-facing laser receiver compared to traditional ATGM’s.
The report says that guidance configuration makes the 9K121 Vikhr “look back” to the launching helicopter to “see” the laser guidance beam from the latter, making it almost impossible to jam in flight and cheaper than comparable models.
In terms of losses, Kyle Mizokami notes in a May 2023 Popular Mechanics article that at the time of his writing, Russia has lost 62 attack helicopters, with up to 30 Ka-52 helicopters downed, representing 30% of Russia’s entire fleet of the type.
Mizokami ascribes those losses to small arms fire, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and anti-aircraft guns, with attack helicopters lacking the speed of attack jets and the armor protection of tanks, making them vulnerable targets.
However, a combination of depleted Ukrainian air defenses and improving Russian tactics may have changed the situation in favor of Russian attack helicopters.
The Warzone notes that Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Hanna Malyar mentioned the threat posed by Russia’s air and artillery superiority to its ongoing counteroffensive.
Specifically, the source notes that Ukraine seemingly lacks forward-deployed mobile SHORAD systems, creating dead zones wherein Russian attack helicopters can operate freely against Ukrainian armor.
The British Ministry of Defense (MOD) mentioned this month that Russia had reinforced its attack helicopter force in southern Ukraine since the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
It also notes that Russia may have already gained a temporary advantage with attack helicopters firing longer-range missiles against ground targets.
This battle is ongoing. The Russians lost a general, Major General Sergei Goryachev, 52, chief of staff of the 35th Combined Arms Army, who died as a result of a missile strike; most likely his command post was hit by a HIMARS.
It is likely he was targeted by US and British spy aircraft operating offshore. The US has been running the Global Hawk RQ-4 drone, a highly capable intelligence drone, and the British brought in the much larger, manned Rivet Joint RC-135 spy-craft.
There is no word on the level of casualties or equipment destroyed on either side.
The British MOD says that 20 extra Russian attack helicopters have been deployed to Berdyansk Airport, 100 kilometers behind the front line. Apart from that, Russia has been deploying new hunter-killer team tactics for its attack helicopter force.
David Axe notes in a February 2023 Forbes article that Russia is deploying its Ka-52’s and Mi-28’s to complement each other’s countermeasures suites. Axe mentions that the Ka-52 has countermeasures against laser and IR-guided missiles.
In contrast, the Mi-28 has countermeasures against radar-guided missiles, enabling each other to defend against various aerial threats.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point WW III Blog News 2023.