Kamov Ka-50

The Kamov Ka-50 "Black Shark" (NATO reporting name: Hokum A) is a single-seat Russian attack helicopter with the distinctive coaxial rotor system of the Kamov design bureau. It was designed in the 1980s and adopted for service in the Russian army in 1995. It is currently manufactured by the Progress company in Arsenyev.

The Ka-50 was designed to be small, fast, and agile to improve survivability and lethality. For minimal weight and size (thus maximum speed and agility) it was - uniquely among gunships - to be operated by a single pilot only. Kamov concluded after thorough research of helicopter combat in Afghanistan and other war zones that the typical attack mission phases of low-level approach, pop-up target acquisition, and weapon launch do not simultaneously demand navigation, maneuvering, and weapons operation of the pilot; and thus with well-designed support automation a single pilot can carry out the entire mission alone.

Advantage of Contra-rotating Co-Axial Rotor

Like other Kamov helicopters, it features Kamov's characteristic contra-rotating co-axial rotor system, which removes the need for the entire tail-rotor assembly and improves the aircraft's aerobatic qualities - it can perform loops, rolls, and “the funnel” (circle-strafing) where the aircraft maintains a line-of-sight to the target while flying circles of varying altitude, elevation, and airspeed around it. 

Using two rotors means that a smaller rotor with slower-moving rotor tips can be used compared to a single rotor design. Since the speed of the advancing rotor tip is a primary limitation to the maximum speed of a helicopter, this allows a faster maximum speed than helicopters such as the AH-64. 

The elimination of the tail rotor is a qualitative advantage because the torque-countering tail rotor can use up to 30% of engine power. 

Furthermore, the vulnerable boom and rear gearbox are fairly common causes of helicopter losses in combat; the Black Shark's entire transmission presents a comparatively small target to ground fire. 

Kamov maintains that the co-axial drive assembly is built to survive hits from 23 mm ammunition like the other vital parts of the helicopter. The zero native torque also allows the aircraft to be fairly immune to wind strength and direction, and to have an unsurpassed turn rate in all travel speed envelopes.


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