Ukrainian serviceman looks at fragments of the Russian military Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopter destroyed by the Ukrainian army during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the Gostomel airfield near Kyiv, Ukraine. July 08, 2022
Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Ukraine has found recent success in shooting down formidable Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters.
After two Ka-52s were downed Thursday, a senior Ukrainian official said the aircraft contain foreign parts.
“The Russian military-industrial complex should not have access to technology,” Andriy Yermak said.
Ukrainian forces have found recent success in bringing down Russia’s formidable Ka-52 attack helicopters, notching several wins against the aircraft this week alone. But a senior official in Kyiv argues that the Russian ability to produce these aircraft needs to be cut off.
On Thursday morning alone, Ukraine’s military said it downed two Ka-52s — referred to by Russia as the “Alligator” and by NATO as the “Hokum-B” — during separate engagements in the occupied Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. After the incidents, Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said the two helicopters couldn’t operate without their foreign components.
Yermak wrote in a Telegram post that the Russian helicopters are built with “high-tech components” that come from countries in the West and in Asia, though he did not name any specific places.
He listed several parts needed for construction of the Ka-52 — including linear stabilizers, processors, chips, telecommunication transformers, and additional capabilities — and said Russia can’t produce such technology and instead has to import them.
“Sanctions against Russia need to be strengthened. The Russian military-industrial complex should not have access to technology,” Yermak said, according to a translation of his online remarks by CNN. “Shooting down the Ka-52 is great. But it is much better to deprive Russia of the ability to produce it.”
A Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopter during testing in Russia’s Rostov region in January 2022.
Western countries, like the US and other NATO allies, slapped a wide array of sanctions on Russia in the immediate aftermath of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year and continued to apply international pressure in the months that followed. But Kyiv has routinely asked its military and economic supporters to strengthen these punitive measures and further isolate Moscow — already a global pariah that has been forced to rely on rogue states like North Korea and Iran.
Yermak’s complaints, however, are not the first time that Russia has been caught using foreign parts inside its weaponry. Ukraine stripped a captured Russian surveillance drone last year and found parts from all over the world, including a camera that was made in France after Moscow’s troops invaded. Ukrainian investigators have also found Western-produced hardware in Iranian-made drones that Russia has been using for nearly a year to terrorize Ukraine’s cities and civil infrastructure.
His comments come as Ukraine appears to be finding ways to defeat the Ka-52 helicopters, which would mark a notable achievement for Kyiv’s forces that have struggled against these assets.
When Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive began earlier this summer, Russia had reinforced its presence of attack helicopters in the occupied southern regions, according to a mid-June intelligence update from Britain’s defense ministry. Ka-52s, which have been toted as highly capable gunships, were able to use their 30mm cannons and anti-tank guided missiles to inflict substantial damage on Ukrainian ground forces lacking sufficient air-defense capabilities.
A Russian Ka-52 military attack helicopter during practice flights at Chernigovka air base in Russia.
Russian Defense Ministry
“In the constant contest between aviation measures and counter-measures, it is likely that Russia has gained a temporary advantage in southern Ukraine, especially with attack helicopters employing longer-range missiles against ground targets,” the UK said at the time.
As Ukraine’s counteroffensive continued in the southern Zaporizhzhia region — one of several directions where Kyiv’s troops have been pushing — Britain’s defense ministry said in a late-July intelligence update that Ka-52s had emerged as “one of the single most influential Russian weapon systems in the sector” and “imposed a heavy cost on Ukraine.”
But Ukrainian forces have seen recent success in shooting downing the aircraft, indicating an improved air-defense capability among front-line forces.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said on Monday an anti-aircraft missile unit destroyed a Ka-52 around the war-torn city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region. Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed in a Thursday Facebook update that it “intercepted” the two helicopters Yermak referred to in his Telegram commentary.