A Russian Ka-52 scout-attack helicopter crashed at the beginning of the month, a Moscow-linked Russian account reported on Monday, marking at least the 50th non-combat loss for an accident-plagued Russian air force.
The “Alligator” helicopter crashed into the Sea of Azov on September 1, just under a mile from the coastline, reported Russian Telegram channel Baza, which has links to Russia’s security services. Poor weather conditions led to the crash, and the two crew members were rescued, according to Baza.
Last month, Newsweek revealed that more than a fifth of the Russian air force’s losses between February 24, 2022, and August 17, 2023, were unrelated to Ukrainian activity. At least 48 Russian aircraft, including jets and helicopters, were lost in non-combat scenarios in the 18-month-long war, according to this publication’s calculations. This included three of Russia’s prized scout-attack Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopters.
Local Russian authorities said on August 29 that an Mi-8 helicopter operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) had crashed in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region, killing three crew members. The loss of another Ka-52 helicopter in the Sea of Azov brings Newsweek‘s tally of self-inflicted Russian losses during the ongoing war in Ukraine to 50 crewed aircraft. Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.
Experts chalked up high Russian non-combat losses to a critical lack of thorough training, inexperienced pilots, and poorly maintained aircraft, all under the pressure of an active conflict.
Newsweek is not counting in this tally Russia’s overall manned aircraft and helicopter losses, which would include those lost because of Kyiv’s activity. This total also excludes a Russian Mi-8 AMTSh assault transport helicopter Ukraine said it had captured after the pilot defected to Kyiv and the crew was lured into landing in northeastern Ukraine.
“We were able to find the right approach to the pilot, move his entire family unnoticed, and finally create conditions where he was able to move this aircraft with the crew, without them knowing what was going on,” said Major General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency (GUR).
Once the crew members realized they had landed in Ukraine, “they tried to run away,” Budanov said in remarks reported by Ukrainian outlet, Ukrainska Pravda. “Unfortunately, they were killed,” he added.
The Ka-52 is considered by Western experts to be one of Russia’s most lethal and effective helicopters. In late July, the British Defense Ministry described the Ka-52 as “one of the single most influential Russian weapon systems” in the southern Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, which has borne the brunt of Ukraine’s counteroffensive push in the last three months.
Russia had likely lost around 40 of the Ka-52 helicopters since the start of the war in February 2022, the British Defense Ministry said at the time. According to Dutch open-source intelligence outlet Oryx, Russia has lost a confirmed total of 43 Ka-52s, although this may be higher, as Oryx only tallies losses where there is visual evidence.