Moscow. 17 June 2021. On June 17, 1982, an experimental single-seat attack helicopter B-80, which later received the name Ka-50 “Black Shark”, made its first flight. This machine, unique for its time, served as a powerful foundation for the development of the Russian combat helicopter industry. Having become the star of the very first MAKS air show in 1993, later this car was repeatedly shown in a static parking lot, and in 2005 it took part in the flight program of the air show.
The Ka-50 helicopter, developed by the Kamov Design Bureau under the leadership of Chief (later General) Designer Sergei Mikheev, became a unique machine, in many ways ahead of its time. It was the world’s first single-seat attack helicopter. It was possible to “reduce” the operator of weapons systems thanks to a highly automated sighting and navigation system. The coaxial rotor design made the Ka-50 more compact, maneuverable and stable in comparison with traditional vehicles; the helicopter was able to change its direction of movement in a few seconds. For the first time in the world, a helicopter received a unique rescue system that allows a pilot to eject from almost the ground and from an extremely low altitude, at which attack helicopters are most often used. Moreover, to protect the pilot, powerful armor made of steel plates and bulletproof glass was used. The combat effectiveness of the vehicle was ensured by advanced technologies at that time, which made it possible to automate the weapons control processes as much as possible. It was a truly unique machine, both in terms of flight characteristics and its electronic stuffing.
The helicopter received the nickname “Black Shark” after the release of the eponymous military action movie of the same name, in which the car acted as the “protagonist”. The reason for such an unusual nickname was the black “night” coloring of the helicopter and its predatory ominous profile. However, the Ka-50 “fought” not only in the movies. In 2000-2001, two “Black Sharks” took part in hostilities in Chechnya as part of an experimental group striking terrorists. Armed with the most modern Vikhr missiles and an effective sighting system, the Ka-50 proved to be a formidable force at that time. In practice, the helicopter has confirmed its unique maneuverability and excellent aerobatic qualities in mountainous terrain with a rarefied atmosphere and poor weather conditions.
The Ka-50 was one of the highlights of the very first MAKS air show in 1993. Subsequently, various modernized versions of the helicopter were demonstrated at the MAKS static parking lot, including those with night vision goggles for safe piloting at night. The demonstration flights of the “Black Shark” became a decoration of the MAKS-2005 flight program, demonstrating maneuverability and controllability unprecedented for a helicopter.
The fate of the car was not easy. The coaxial layout of the propellers also had disadvantages, the main of which was the vulnerability of the blades. Despite the fact that the helicopter was put into service in 1995, it never came to large-scale production. Production of the “Black Shark” has been suspended since January 2009. However, the fast maneuverable attack Ka-50 will forever remain in history as a unique combat vehicle that became the prototype for the famous Ka-52 “Alligator”, and later for its ship version of the Ka-52K. Coaxial combat helicopters have found their irreplaceable place in Russia’s new high-tech army. No other army in the world has such combat vehicles.
We are waiting for new versions of the Ka-52 attack helicopter – a worthy successor to the best qualities of the unique Ka-50, which has become one of the brightest pages of the Russian helicopter industry, at the static parking lot and in the flight program of the MAKS-2021 air show.