by Dr. Shaul Shay
The Russian-made Ka-52K helicopters, combined with the French-made Mistral ships expected to be deliver to Egypt by the first half of 2016, offer Egypt a whole new dimension of offensive and influence operations. Dr. Shaul Shay reviews the capabilities of Egypt's future arsenal
Russian made Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter in flight (Photo: AP)
Chief Executive Officer of "Russian Helicopters", Alexander Mikheev, announced on December 30, 2015, that Russia will supply Egypt with 46 new Ka-52K Alligator Helicopters developed for the French-made Mistral-class amphibious ships.
Mikheev said that Egypt has signed deals to import the Alligator helicopters from Russia, but the date of delivery has not yet been announced. Moscow does not rule out delivery of the deck-based version of these helicopters that were designed for the defaulted "Mistral project".
In October 2015, Egypt signed a deal with France to buy two French-made BPC-210 Mistral Class amphibious assault ships (BPC/LHD) that were originally built for the Russian Navy. France is expected to deliver the warships by the first half of 2016.
Sources in the Russian Navy’s Main Headquarters said in August 2015 that the Navy expects to receive the first Kamov Ka-52K ship-borne helicopters in 2017-2018. The helicopters were earlier intended to be based on two Mistral helicopter carriers, which France has refused to deliver to Russia over Moscow's stance on developments in the neighboring Ukraine.
Chief of Kremlin Staff Sergey Ivanov said in November 2015 that Egypt plans to buy a large amount of advanced weapons from Russia and the sum of the deal might exceed $1 billion.
The deal comes a month after the two countries signed the Dabaa nuclear plant deal, which involves the building of four third-generation reactors in Egypt.
The Ka-52 (Alligator)
Ka-52 Alligator is an all-weather attack helicopter operated by the Russian Air Force. Developed by Kamov Design Bureau (part of Russian Helicopters), Ka-52 is a twin-seat variant of the Ka-50 attack helicopter. The Ka-52 helicopter can destroy enemy armored and unarmored ground targets, low-speed aerial targets and personnel at the frontline and in tactical depth.
The Ka-52 can provide target acquisition and designation for helicopter teams and ground troop command and control centers. It can also provide fire support for troop landings, fly routine patrols and escort military convoys.
The first Ka-52 helicopter was rolled out in December 1996. The helicopter completed its first flight in June 1997. The serial production of Ka-52 began in 2008 at Progress Arsenyev Aviation plant in the Primorye region of Russia.
The helicopter has a length of 16m, height of 4.9m and main rotor diameter of 14.5m. The maximum take-off weight of the Ka-52 is 10,800kg.
The starboard side of the fuselage is fitted with a NPPU-80 movable gun mount installed with 2A42 30mm automatic gun. The six wing-mounted external hard points can be attached with different combinations of weapons.
The hard points can carry VIKHR anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), ATAKA missiles with laser guidance system and B8V-20 rocket launchers for 80mm unguided S-8 rockets. VIKHR anti-tank missile has a range of eight to ten kilometers. The Ka-52s can also be armed with IGLA-V anti-aircraft guided missiles.
The Ka-52 helicopter is fitted with a mast-mounted random housing a Phazotron FH-01 Millimeter Wave Radar (MMW) radar with two antennas for aerial and ground targets.
The countermeasures are supported by active IR and electronic jammers, radar warning receiver (RWR), laser detection system, IR missile approach warning sensor and UV-26 flare/chaff dispensers in wing-tip fairings.
The Ka-52K is a naval deck-based variant of the Ka-52 Alligator. Initially, this type of helicopters was developed for Mistral helicopter carriers ordered in France in 2011. However, France froze the delivery of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia in 2014 over Moscow’s stance on developments in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Francois Hollande agreed on terminating the contract on the delivery of the ships to Russia.
Russian Helicopters is the sole Russian rotorcraft designer and manufacturer and one of the few companies worldwide with the capability to design, manufacture, service, and test modern civilian and military helicopters.
Russian Helicopters rotorcraft manufacturer and Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier said Ka-52K helicopters would be based on other ships of the Russian Navy instead of Mistrals. Russian Helicopters has also said the company expects deck-based Alligator helicopters to enjoy demand on international arms markets.
The BPC-210 Mistral Class Amphibious Assault Ship (BPC/LHD)
The primary mission for these ships are amphibious landing operations. They also provide command and force projection capability.
The Mistral class vessel uses four mechanized landing craft (LCM) or two hovercraft (LCAC) in the stern deck to deliver troops and vehicles ashore. It can carry a full tank battalion with up to 40 MBTs, or up to 70 lighter vehicles. The ship provides accommodation for 450 marines; however, the surge capacity is 900.
Mistral class LHD has six helicopter landing spots. Up to 16 medium (NH90, Tigre) or 35 light helicopters can be carried and stored in the hangar deck. It is worth mentioning that every helicopter, operated by the French military, can land on these ships.
According to TASS, a Russian news agency, Russia and Egypt had signed a deal for Egypt’s purchase of 50 Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters from Russia. According to the report, the purchase could include a variant of the Ka-52 (the Ka-52 Katran), which specifically designed for the Mistrals Russia had intended to acquire.
The ships are equipped with 69 hospital beds, and a hangar can also be converted into a modular field hospital. The Mistral class can be deployed as command and control vessels – while the command center can host up to 150 personnel.
The vessel is armed with two Simbad launchers for Mistral surface-to-air missiles and two 30-mm Breda-Mauser guns.
Ties with the United States plummeted after Egypt's army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, with Washington freezing its annual $1.3 billion in military aid. Russia is one of the main non-Arab supporters of Sisi’s government and was among the first countries to endorse Sisi’s presidential bid in 2014.
Egypt has learned its lessons and decided to reduce the overreliance on one provider (US) and diversifying the sources of Egypt’s armaments became a strategic priority. As a part of the new Egyptian policy, Russia and France became significant sources of arms supply.
The Ka25K deal is a significant step in the fast-growing strategic alliance between Egypt and Russia. Egypt and Russia have never been that close since the era of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, referring to the level of economic and military cooperation, which culminated in arm deals and naval maneuvers codenamed “Friendship Bridge 2015.”
Mistral Class ships, designed for a large helicopter aviation role as well as amphibious landing and support of troops, would improve Egypt's capabilities in these areas. The Ka-52K helicopters, combined with the Mistral ships’ troop landing capabilities, offer Egypt a whole new dimension of offensive and influence operations.
Egypt has one of the biggest navies in the Middle East and the current arm deal will help Egypt to upgrade and modernize its navy. Egypt’s navy is currently taking part in a Saudi-led Arab operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Egypt could use the two new warships to transport about 1,000 troops, armored vehicles and helicopters to intervene in Yemen, Libya or other countries where Egypt and a joint Arab force might become involved. The addition of the Mistral ships and the new helicopters could provide also a counter-balance against increasing Iranian influence in the region.
Dr. Shaul Shay
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