Russia is scaling back its use of the feared Ka-52 attack helicopter after Ukraine got good at taking them out: ISW

  • Ukraine is getting better at taking down Russia's Ka-52 helicopters, analysts say.

  • The helicopters are among the most effective weapons Russia has in battling Ukraine's counteroffensive.

  • But the Institute for the Study of War says Russian commanders are now more reluctant to deploy them.

Ukraine has gotten better at destroying the Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters that had plagued its counteroffensive, a US think tank says.

The respected Institute for the Study of War said Russia had reduced its use of aviation when pushing back against Ukraine's grinding advances in the south and east of the country.

The aircraft that played the most important role against Ukrainian attacks was the Ka-52 helicopter, nicknamed "Putin's Vultures" by Ukrainian media and believed to be among the most effective attack helicopters in the world.

The UK's military intelligence said the helicopters were "one of the single most influential Russian weapon systems" on the front lines.

"Ukrainian forces appear to have increased their ability to down Russian Ka-52 helicopters in mid-August 2023, and the Russian command may have decreased aviation use in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast out of fears of aviation and pilot losses," said the ISW.

It added that Russia was instead conducting more airstrikes in other parts of the front line, including Kherson and Luhansk, in a possible bid to offset the "degraded" Russian forces in those areas.

The Ka-52 is highly maneuverable, fitted with thick armor, and with tank-busting rockets with a range of about 9 miles.

Gian Gentile, an analyst with the RAND Corporation, told Insider the helicopters enabled Russia to stop Ukrainian tanks while being so far away that Ukraine's air-defense systems couldn't shoot back.

The ISW didn't specify how Ukraine had been able to take down more of the helicopters, but Nico Lange, a Ukraine expert at the Munich Security Conference, told The Economist in August that Ukraine was picking them off "piece by piece," boosting its counteroffensive.

He said while Russia had about 100 of the helicopters at the start of the war, the number could have dwindled as low as 25.

The Defense Express reported in August that Swedish shoulder-mounted missile launchers had proven effective in attacking the helicopters.

Ukraine is seeking to break through Russia's formidable defenses in the southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast and then advance toward the strategically important city of Melitopol.

Despite recent Ukrainian advances, Russia has so far prevented Ukraine from making a decisive breakthrough. The ISW said Ukraine's improved ability against the Ka-52 had not seriously undermined Russian defenses.

"Russian forces appear to have increased their use of strike drones against advancing Ukrainian forces, and Russian artillery units continue to play a significant role in repelling Ukrainian assaults," said the ISW.

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