Articles

This is how long NATO tanks would last against Russian attack helicopters

Russia has two advanced helicopter gunships in service – the Kamov Ka-50/Ka-52 Hokum, and the Mi-28 Havoc. The obvious question – one thankfully never answered in real life – is how well they'd take out American (or Western) tanks and fighting vehicles?


The two helicopters competed against each other near the end of the Cold War — just as the Soviet Union was teetering but was still desperate to find something to match the tank-killing AH-64 Apache.

Related: This deadly Russian attack helicopter is known as 'the flying tank'

The Mi-24 Hind, which had earned a fearsome reputation as a "flying tank" in Afghanistan, was quickly becoming out-classed.

A left front view of a Soviet Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter being towed on the flight line. (DOD photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Mi-28 has a top speed of about 162 knots, and a range of 130 nautical miles. It is armed with the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2, and carries about 250 rounds of ammunition. RussianHelicopters.aero notes that the Havoc can carry a wide variety of rockets and missiles.

The Kamov Ka-50 and Ka-52 are two versions of the Hokum attack helicopter. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Hokum was officially named the winner of the competition with the Havoc in 1995, but in post-Cold War Russia, the production was slow.

Like the Mi-28, it has the same 30mm cannon used on the BMP-2 and can carry rockets and anti-tank missiles.

The Ka-52 Hokum B. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to World Air Forces 2016 by FlightGlobal.com, Russia has a grand total of 81 Mi-28s and 74 Ka-50/52s on hand. Another 14 Havocs and 82 Hokums are on order.

That is a total of 251 attack helicopters. This creates a problem for the Russians.

Having so few chopper means that they have two options: To either disperse the Havocs and Hokums, and let them be taken out piecemeal, or to concentrate them, and accept that the presence of Havocs and Hokums will be a big indication of where a Russian attack would take place for NATO intelligence.

Related: That time the US Army stole a Russian helicopter for the CIA

So, how well would the Hokum and Havoc do in combat? One big problem is that the Russians will likely not have air superiority, largely due to the fact that many NATO planes are better.

While American and NATO F-22s, F-35s, Rafales, and Typhoons take air superiority from Russian Flankers and Fulcrums, a lot of F-16s and A-10s will be carrying out air support missions. The F-16s will feast on the Russian choppers when they aren't dropping bombs themselves.

While those that reach the front will kill some Abrams, Leopard, Challenger, or LeClerc tanks, they will likely be wiped out as NATO takes advantage of air superiority.

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