The Kamov Ka-50N (Nochnoy — night-capable) is Russian night-capable version of Ka-50 Werewolf attack helicopter. This was the final step in fulfilling the government task to develop a new-generation combat helicopter. The ability to operate at night and in poor weather conditions was included in the general operational requirements for the Ka-50 formulated back in the late ’70s.
Kamov Ka-50 Nochnoy
Initially the night version Ka-50N was to have been fitted with the Merkury low-light level TV (LLLTV) system, operational versions of which were installed on the second and third V-80 (Ka-50) prototypes; the system was also to be fitted to the competing Mil Mi-28 helicopter and the Su-25T “tank killer” aircraft. Concurrently the Moscow scientific production association “Geofizika” was refining its forward-looking infra-red seeker (FLIR) developed specially for helicopters, which had been first tested in 1986 on a modified Mil Mi-24V. An operational version of this FLIR was fitted in 1990 to the fifth V-80 prototype. Unfortunately, early Soviet thermal imaging and LLLTV systems were not very reliable or capable, and efforts to improve them were hampered by lack of funding. Eventually further work on the Merkury and similar LLLTV systems was discontinued because experience gained with such systems in the USSR and abroad showed that the gear would be far too bulky and heavy for tactical aircraft — at least if state-of-the-art electronic components of the day were used.
Therefore, thermal imaging systems were given top priority. In 1993 the Kamov OKB developed an advanced project of a night-capable version of the Kamov Ka-50. The Krasnogorsk machinery plant began working on a night-capable version of the Shkval-V (Gale) targeting system intended for the Ka-50N. In addition to the standard features of the day version (a day infra-red search and track (IRST) channel, a laser rangefinder/target designator and a guidance channel for laser-guided anti-tank missiles), the system included a night IRST channel. However, development work on the indigenous system was making slow progress due to insufficient funding, so the Kamov OKB decided to use Western equipment as a stopgap measure.
On obtaining government approval Kamov signed a contract with the renowned French avionics company Thomson-CSF on the delivery of several models of thermal imaging systems for testing them on the Ka-50. A containerized version was demonstrated in August 1995 during the MAKS-95 airshow in Zhukovsky, carried by the 10th flying Kamov Ka-50 (020 White, Le Bourget code H318, name Werewolf). Later the French IRST was temporarily integrated into the Russian Samshit-E combined targeting system fitted to the Kamov Ka-52 prototype in 1996. A similar system designated Samshit-50 and featuring the Thomson-CSF Victor IR seeker, was fitted to the prototype Ka-50N which was unveiled in March 1997.
Unlike the Kamov Ka-52, on the Ka-50N the ball turret of 640 mm (25 in.) diameter housing the gyrostabilized platform of the Samshit-50 targeting system features four windows (one large and three small ones) and is mounted in the fuselage nose above the optically flat window of the standard Shkval-V laser/TV targeting system. The night equipment is capable of detecting a small target (e.g., a tank) at 7 km (4.3 mi.) or more and accurate targeting at 4.5-5 km (2.8-3.1 mi.). The Ka-50N is also equipped with the Arbalet MMS which is used not only for targeting but also for detecting aerial threats jointly with the updated RHAWS. The avionics suite is updated by adding satellite communications equipment, and the PA-4-3 automatic paper map is due to be replaced by a colour navigational display with a digital map.
The armament options of Ka-50N are identical to the standard Ka-50. Since the IR seeker of the Samshit-50 targeting system is slaved to the Shkval-V targeting system working with the laser-guided anti-tank missiles, the Vikhr’ missiles can be used both in the daytime and at night. As with the Ka-52, air-to-surface missiles, R-73 and Igla-V AAMs may be used.
The Ka-50N was converted in early 1997 from the first production Ka-50, i.e., the eighth flying example (018 Silver, ex 018 Yellow). It made its first flight on May 5, 1997. Only ten days later, accompanied by a standard Ka-50 (22 Yellow) from the Russian Army aviation training centre in Torzhok, it was flown to Dubai to take part in the IDEX’97 international defence industry exhibition (March 16-20).
As for new helicopter deliveries to the Russian Army, Ka-50 project chief Grigory V. Yakimenko says that the Progress aircraft plant in Arsenyev in the Far East is gearing up for putting the Ka-50N into production. A Russian IR scanner to replace the Thomson-CSF Victor is due to enter production soon; this will equip Ka-50Ns and Ka-52s for the Russian army aviation.
The Ka-50N may make up 30% of the total production volume of the Black Shark, providing sufficient funds are available. This will ensure maximum value-for-money for the strike helicopter force. Helicopter regiments equipped with Kamov assault choppers will each have two squadrons equipped with the basic Ka-50 and one Ka-50N squadron. Such units are augmented by Kamov Ka-52 day/night combat/reconnaissance. For now, production of Ka-50 and Ka-50N are “frozen”.
Kamov Ka-50N Data and Performance
Ka-50 0n Kamov official site: http://www.kamov.ru/en/production/ka50/
Kamov Ka-50 Video
[flash_video 6 /]