There’s one big difference between a military attack helicopter and a military transport helicopter: one carries a lot of guns, and the other carries a lot of weight.
And the US Army AH-64 Apache and Russian Ka-52 Alligator are generally considered to be the two best military attack helicopters in the world (with the Russian Mi-28N arguably in a close third).
The Apache first flew in 1975, and has since been upgraded several times, with the newest variant being the AH-64E.
The Alligator, on the other hand, first flew in 1997 and is a successor to the Ka-50 Black Shark.
Here’s how they match up.
PERFORMANCE: The Ka-52 has a top speed of 196 mph, a maximum altitude of 18,044 feet and maximum range of 683 miles.
The Apache’s newest variant has a top speed of 188 mph, a maximum altitude of 20,500 feet and maximum range of 299 miles.
DESIGN: The Ka-52 has two three-blade counter-rotating rotors, making it extremely manoeuvrable. Russian media even claims it can pivot 90 degrees on the spot.
Source: The National Interest
The Apache uses a more traditional four-bladed single rotor along with a tail rotor.
Source: US Army
WEAPONS: The Alligator carries a variety of weapons, such as VIKHR and ATAKA anti-tank guided missiles, Kh-25ML air-to-ground missiles and 80mm unguided S-8 rockets. The Ka-52K variant even carries Kh-35 anti-ship missiles that can hit targets up to 80 miles away. It also has a 2A42 30mm automatic gun, which can reportedly fire up to 550 rounds per minute.
The Apache can carry 16 hellfire missiles and 76 2.75-inch rockets. It also carries a 30 mm gun with 1,200 rounds of ammunition.
Source: US Army
The Ah-64E variant also has one trick up its sleeve as well: drones.
The new Ah-64E can receive video and data from drones, and some can control the drone’s sensors and flight paths. These capabilities will only continue to grow in the near future.
Source: Defence News
WINNER: The Apache, by a slim margin.
The Ka-52 may boast more firepower and be more manoeuvrable than the AH-64 (it also uniquely has ejection seats), but the Apache’s increasing drone capability could really change the way close air support is conducted.
There has been discussion of the Army replacing the Apache. However, Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commander of the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker in Alabama, said in September that it would fly for another 30 years.
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