As Ukrainian brigades hurtled across the south and east on the night of June 4, at the start of Kiev’s long-awaited counter-offensive of 2023, Russian Air Force helicopters were waiting.
Ukraine concentrated its best air defenses around Kiev and other major cities, leaving front-line battalions vulnerable to attack from above—a flaw in Ukrainian planning that the Russians exploited.
Ten weeks later, the Ukrainians appear to have extended their air defenses over the leading brigades. On Thursday, Ukrainian forces shot down two Russian attack helicopters.
The shootings were especially sweet for the 47th mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian army. Russian aircraft wreaked havoc on the 47th Brigade during the first night of their offensive south of Mala Tokmachka, in the Zaporizhia region of southern Ukraine, on June 8.
The 47th Brigade and its partner, the 33rd Mechanized, were hit by mines, bombarded by artillery and defeated from the air, losing at least twenty of their best vehicles that night, including Leopard 2A6 tanks, Leopard 2R mineclearers and M-2s.
The Ukrainians eventually found a way around the Mala Tokmachka minefield, allowing them to recover—and possibly repair—many of the vehicles they had abandoned on 8 June. The road to Melitopol, 45 miles to the south.
Here, north of the Russian positions at Robotyne, the 47th Brigade retaliated against Ka-52s, many of which operate from Russian-occupied Berdyansk on the Black Sea coast.
Firing a laser-guided Swedish-made Saab RBS-70, the soldiers of the 47th Brigade shot down a Ka-52, killing one crew member. On the same day, Ukrainian forces also Close last Ka 52 About Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
The twin strikes bring to at least 41 the number of Ka-52 fighters Russia has lost in its 18-month all-out war with Ukraine. That’s roughly a third of all Ka-52s built by Kamov for the Russian Air Force.
The Ka-52 fleet had a difficult war. To use the best Vikhr anti-tank missiles, Ka-52 crews must fly within a few hundred meters of the ground for seconds on end, which can expose them to ground-based air defenses. During those vulnerable seconds, the gunship crew relies on the helicopter’s onboard jammers to protect them.
The A-52 has countermeasures against laser and infrared guided missiles however no against radar guided missiles. So, the Ka-52s frequently fly in mixed formations with the heavier Mil Mi-28s, which Do It has radar jammers.
But overlapping countermeasures don’t always work –especially Against RBS-70. The 190-pound, two-person air defense system fires a supersonic missile up to 5.5 miles away. Almost as far as Vikhr ranges.
While its primary aiming is lasers, the RBS-70 works even when spoofing lasers. “The operator on the ground can use the manual control at any time after launch and thus change the point of aim,” Saab said to explain.
Even after losing With 41 Ka-52s plus at least 60 other helicopters and at least 74 fixed-wing aircraft, the Russians still mostly control the air over the front line in Ukraine.
To make any contribution to the Kiev counter-offensive and to survive, Ukrainian helicopters would have to fly ridiculously low. Meanwhile, Ukrainian fighter jets launched their own attacks from long range, firing a variety of precision missiles and Western-made glide bombs.
The Russian Air Force is the only one capable of deploying attack helicopters and fighter bombers directly over the fiercest ground combat.
for now. If every Ukrainian brigade could get its missile crews forward the way the 47th Brigade clearly did, the Russians could eventually lose control of the air over the front line.
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