The Ka-50 Black Shark (NATO name “Hokum A”) is a coaxial attack helicopter designed by the Kamov bureau of the Soviet Union and today Russia. It first took flight in 1982 and was introduced in 1995.
The Black Shark was designed to be a heavily-armoured scout and is also known as the “werewolf”. Unlike attack helicopters such as the Apache, the Black Shark is a single-seat helicopter.
It has a distinctive coaxial rotor system which is a signature of Kamov and means there is no need for a tail-rotor. Thanks to the coaxial design the hovering ceiling of the Black Shark is 4000m and its vertical climb rate at 2500m is a snappy 10 meters per second.
The lack of a tail rotor also means that the Black Shark can perform flat turns with the full flight speed range.
The Black Shark is heavily-armoured all around. The cockpit protects the pilot from 12.7 mm armour-piercing rounds and 23mm fragments. The rotors can withstand several hits from ground-based automated AA weapons.
The Ka-50’s pilot ejection system is a world-first. It means the pilot can escape at altitude and at speed. It uses the K-37-800 rocket-assisted ejection seat. It’s not a ride for the faint-hearted, but it beats a crash and burn.
The Black Shark lives up to its name by being armed to the teeth. The maximum weapon load can be as much as two tons. That weight can be made up by anti-tank missiles, unguided rockets of varying calibers, air-to-air missiles, guns, bombs and others weapons.
It can carry up to 12 laser-guided Vikhr anti tank missiles and has a 2A42 quickfire 30mm gun with an unrestricted azimuth. It’s mounting also allow for engagement of both ground and air targets.
Apart from physical armour, the Black Shark has a radar warning device, electronic warfare system, and chaff and flare dispensers.
It’s powered by two powerful TV3-117VMA turboshafts providing 2 200 horsepower each.
The fearsome Black Shark remains in production today. Thirty-two Ka-50 units have been built and an additional eighty Ka-52 “Alligator” variants have also been completed.