The Katrans helicopters were created for the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships commissioned by Russia from France. Photo: A Ka-52K "Katran" on the testing site at the Progress aviation plant. Source: Vitaliy Ankov / RIA Novosti
Russia’s aircraft carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ is getting ready for a voyage to the Mediterranean coast of Syria. The deployment is intended to check the combat capabilities of the carrier and its strike group, including Russia's state-of-the-art KA-52K ‘Katran’ helicopters. The cruiser's deck-based aircraft will join the Syrian campaign from October 2016 to January 2017.
The deployment of the Admiral Kuznetsov amounts to a planned inspection of Russian arms, Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of the ‘Arsenal Otechestva’ (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine, told RIR.
"Sending the Admiral to Syria is a test of the operational and technical capacity and ability of our air carrier strike group, as Russia has never used air carriers earlier, in real combat conditions," said Murakhovsky.
The vessel now carries 15 Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB fighter jets, and more than 10 Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31 helicopters.
The air group’s main task will be to shore up the Russian Aerospace Forces' air defence and support government troops against militants opposed to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
“The air group's capacity to strike ground targets is limited," said Murakhovsky. "A new turning point in the war with militants should not be expected. The main role in the war against terrorists is being played by Assad's troops."
Murakhovsky denied some Russian media reports that the cruiser would be involved in combat earlier than planned after the killing of Russian pilots near the city of Palmyra.
Russia's state-of-the-art Ka-52K Katran helicopters; the ship-based version of the Ka-52, which is already being used in the Syrian operation; will be live-fire tested during the deployment of the Admiral Kuznetsov.
The land-based version of the combat helicopter was first used during the Russian air campaign in Syria. The first images of the use of the helicopter in combat hit the internet on April 3, when the Syrian government army completely liberated the city of Al-Qaryatayn in Homs province, with the support of the Russian air force.
Murakhovsky said the combat capabilities of the ship-based version of the Ka-52 was in no way inferior to the land-based one.
"The machines will have to also manifest themselves in the support of land forces," he said. "The main difference between the helicopters is operational. The ‘Katran’ has folding blades, so it can fit in a helicopter carrier's hangar, while the navigation system has been slightly upgraded to ensure flights over the sea, boarding and landing on the ship."
‘Katrans’ were built specifically for the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships commissioned by Russia from France in 2011. Because of Russia’s role in the Ukrainian crisis, the helicopter carriers failed to join the Russian Navy: French President François Hollande terminated the contract for supply of the Mistrals.
Vadim Kozyulin, professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, said France cancelled the contract under pressure from its NATO allies. The ships were acquired instead by Egypt, and immediately after that Cairo bought a batch of 50 Russian ‘Katrans’ from Moscow.
Dmitry Safonov, military analyst for the daily newspaper Izvestiya said the use of ‘Katrans’ in Syria will be a step toward promoting the machine in the global arms market.
"In particular, this is being done to demonstrate the combat capabilities of the machine to Egypt," said Safonov.
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