In 200 days more than 50 gunships were destroyed: attack helicopters are strong in firepower but weak in defence

On February 24, Russian airborne forces used the Mi-8T/Mi-17 transport helicopter to fly hundreds of kilometres directly into the Antonov airfield outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, while being protected by Ka-52 and Mi-35 helicopter gunships. The helicopter raid itself was unquestionably a success, and no other country had ever used the daring tactic of using helicopters to carry combatants directly into an airfield near a country’s capital in previous operations behind enemy lines. However, the Russian army that carried out the raid ultimately chose to retreat due to the delay in the arrival of the planned reinforcement of the IL-76 aircraft group.

However, in the follow-up operations, various helicopters of the Russian army, including helicopter gunships, were constantly shot down like the Ka-52, Mi-8, Mi-28, Mi-35, and so on. According to the latest statistics, from the outbreak of the conflict on February 24 to the present, the Russian army has lost more than 200 helicopters on the battlefield 9 (according to Ukrainian claim), while according to open sources, Russia lost around 60 helicopters and most of which are helicopter gunships, up to 31 gunships lost, and the rest are transport helicopters or reconnaissance helicopters.

The loss of 60 helicopters in 180 days is not a tragic loss, but it is definitely not small, while the number of helicopter losses of the US military in the 2003 Iraq War was only single digits. Through this example, we also see the vulnerability of helicopters. Even helicopter gunships are relatively fragile from the standpoint of their own protection capabilities because they lack the speed and flight height compared ti fighter jet fighters. They are also easily shot down by a variety of air defence systems, MANPADS, RPG rockets, and even individual small arms.

Down Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter
Down Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter

It can be said that Helicopters are east to shot down compared to fighter aircraft. A helicopter also needs to fly at a low altitude in many cases, resulting in a great increase in the probability of the helicopter being attacked by various equipment, and the helicopter cannot increase the thickness of armor like a Tank! The helicopter itself has the disadvantage of poor defense capability, and there have been a large number of losses in the Russian military helicopters in this conflict, what role does the helicopter play in modern operations?

Helicopter gunships, despite their inadequate defensive capabilities, still have a great role today. Although the helicopter gunship is a kind of aircraft, its main role is still used in land warfare, that is, ground assault and ground fire support. Compared with other land combat equipment, the mobility of helicopter gunships is incomparable to any kind of ground equipment, in terms of firepower, heavy gunships can carry more than a dozen anti-tank missiles or rocket attack helicopters are also equipped with auto canon.

Helicopter gunships can reach a speed of more than 200 kilometers per hour, which is several times the speed of ground armored fighting vehicles, and helicopter gunships can run at high speed despite terrain obstacles, even when encountering rivers and valleys. Because oe these features of a helicopter the Russian airborne troops at the beginning of this conflict were able to successfully break into the Antonov airport, and if such a force projection was carried out with ground combat vehicles, it would be impossible to achieve such a rushing effect! Therefore, all types of helicopters, including helicopter gunships, can still play a huge role in modern warfare and are also one of the absolute main forces in ground operations, and how attack helicopters play a role and reduce war damage depends on how to use them.

First, what of tactics, weapons, and equipment playing the roles; one depends on their own performance, the other depends on tactical tactics, and tactical tactics frequently compensate for the shortcomings of weapons and equipment. In this conflict, the Russian military helicopter losses are relatively large, and a large reason is that the Russian ground combat units and the helicopters in the air are not well coordinated, and the Russian armed helicopters often go deep behind the enemy to fight alone, and if any kind of weaponry is fought alone, it will be destroyed in large quantities.

Armed helicopter firepower is powerful, and the ground strike capability is outstanding, known as the “tank killer”, but in order to play the performance of the helicopter gunship, it is necessary to have the effective cooperation of the ground combat unit, in this conflict, the Russian army a Mi-24 was ambushed in the woods of the Ukrainian military single air defense missile ambush is the result of a lone battle. Gunships are not suitable for frontal hard-hitting, helicopter gunships are actually suitable for playing the role of “assassins”, letting the ground heavy armored groups attack head-on, hiding on their own to find a suitable opportunity to kill the enemy!

The second is to enhance their own protection capabilities, and the protective capabilities of helicopter gunships are one kind of hard protection, and the other is soft protection. Hard protection is to enhance the defense capability of their own armor, although the helicopter gunship can not be as heavy armor as the main battle tank, but the modern gunship used light weight composute material, but the helicopter gunship installation of protective armor can only be installed in the cab, hatch, engine, and other key parts, can not be fully installed in the entire fuselage, and even such armor is difficult to resist the attack of anti-aircraft missiles.

Soft defense refers to the helicopter gunship equipped with electronic combat systems, infrared jamming systems, and other defensive equipment, interfering with incoming missiles, or even directly destroying the opponent’s ground detection system so that it cannot find the helicopter gunship. Many simple individual anti-aircraft missiles or RPG rockets are not strong in anti-jamming ability, helicopter gunships rely on defensive armor, electromagnetic/infrared interference, coupled with their own maneuvering evasion capabilities, can evade a lot of attacks, and the Russian army participates in the operation of many of the old helicopter defense system is not comprehensive, which is also one of the reasons for being shot down in large quantities.

Another consideration is to achieve equipment coordination. In combat operations, the gunship can be supported by other equipment, such as the dispatch of large electronic fighters for electromagnetic suppression. A large electronic warfare aircraft can carry high-intensity electromagnetic suppression over distances of hundreds of kilometres. It is also possible to use unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to carry infrared detection equipment to hover over the battlefield.

On the whole, helicopter gunships are still an important part of modern land warfare, and relying on a complete combat system can play a huge role, and the combat system has both service cooperation and equipment cooperation, as long as the combat system is perfect, the helicopter gunship can wipe out enemy tanks, IFV, artillery and can play a miraculous effect!

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