The Navy and aviation industry continues a large-scale program of repair and modernization of Ka-29 transport and combat helicopters. After restoration and upgrade, the equipment is back in service and strengthens naval aviation. In recent years, the fleet of several units has been updated in this way, and soon the improved Ka-29 will replenish new parts.
From project to operation
The future Ka-29 was created in the seventies; The first flight of the prototype vehicle took place in 1976. The equipment came off the assembly line until 1991, after which production was suspended indefinitely – in fact forever, new helicopters were no longer produced.
As early as 1985, the naval aviation of the Soviet Navy received the first serial Ka-29 and began its development. Then there were activities to develop methods of combat use. In August 1987, the new helicopter was officially put into service. By that time, the customer managed to get a significant part of the helicopters, due to which it was possible to staff several units.
A total of 59 serial Ka-29s were built in 1984-91. The main part of them, 46 units, entered the Navy. Other helicopters were handed over to other Structures of the Ministry of Defence. In particular, naval helicopters were studied at the 344th Center for Combat Use of Army Aviation (Torzhok).In naval aviation, Ka-29 served in the combat units of the Northern, Baltic and Pacific fleets. Training units worked as part of the Black Sea. Subsequently, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this led to the division of technology between the two countries. Most of the helicopters remained in Russia, and five more units passed to Ukraine.
A new type of transport and combat helicopter was designed to support the actions of the Marine Corps. The Ka-29 was to bring the fighters ashore and carry out fire support with cannon-submachine gun, rocket and bomb weapons. The passenger cabin could accommodate 16 fighters with weapons; 4 external suspension points housed 1,850 kg of air weapons.
Depending on the task at hand, helicopters could operate from coastal airfields or from the deck of ships. The main carriers of the Ka-29 were considered large amphibious ships Ave. 1174 “Rhinoceros.” Each of the three BDCs of this type could carry 4 helicopters – with the possibility of disembarking 64 soldiers. Helicopters also flew from aircraft carriers of different types. Experiments were carried out with the operation of the Ka-29 on ships with a single-seat runway. They were swerved in 1987 after the crash.
At the turn of the eighties and nineties, hard times had come for the armed forces in general and maritime aviation in particular. First, the intensity of operation of various equipment, including Ka-29 helicopters, dropped. Then the main part of the aircraft carriers, capable of receiving transport and combat helicopters, were withdrawn from the combat fleet. In addition, the disintegration of the country led to the division of the navy match.All these events hit the condition of the Park Ka-29 and its prospects. Helicopters with special capabilities were unnecessary – and there was no opportunity to maintain their technical condition. The technique was idle and her condition was constantly deteriorating. In the late nineties, the Navy handed over up to 15-16 helicopters to the Interior Forces.
Due to downtime and lack of proper maintenance, the condition of the helicopters was steadily deteriorating. The Navy was forced to withdraw them from the combat personnel with a reserve or with a complete decommissioning. As a result, by the end of the 2000s, there were no more than 10-20 cars in service.
It should be noted that even against the background of the difficult events of the nineties, work on the development of helicopter equipment continued. Thus, in 1997, two flying laboratories based on the Ka-29, designed to practice the methods of combat use of the Ka-50 attack helicopter, were put to the test. One of them was carrying non-emergency weapons, the other received a sighting and navigation complex from the Ka-50 and became an air observation and targeting point. In January-February 2001, a combat strike group consisting of two Ka-50 and the only Ka-29VPNSU was tested in the real conditions of the Chechen conflict.
At the beginning of the 2000s, it became known about the planned return of Ka-29 helicopters to full service. It was proposed to repair and upgrade 10 vehicles for the base on the expected amphibious ships “Mistral”. To meet modern requirements, helicopters had to obtain new electronic equipment and modern weapons. However, the detailed composition of the new electronic complex was not disclosed. The first batches of the refurbished Ka-29 were handed over to the Navy in 2016-17. Then they repaired and modernized the helicopters of the Northern Fleet. According to The Military Balance, due to such measures, the number of transport and combat helicopters in service is approaching three dozen.
Recently, Izvestia reported on the expansion of the areas of operation of Ka-29 helicopters. From next year they are planned to be involved in the protection of the country’s Arctic borders. Such tasks will be divided between parts of the North and Pacific Fleet. In the western regions will work Ka-29 from the 830th Ocplp of the Northern Fleet, other frontiers will give the 317th mixed air regiment, carrying service in Kamchatka.
Return to service
The Ka-29 transport and combat helicopter is old enough – its creation was completed in the early eighties. At the same time, it is still not outdated and retains good potential. Timely modernization by replacing individual nodes and units allows continuous operation for a long time with the full implementation of all possibilities of the design.
In fact, the real “flying BMP” is returning to full operation, able to serve the Marines in the special conditions of its operation. The Ka-29 is not the only domestic helicopter capable of landing and supporting amphibious assault, but it has important advantages over other models. Thus, the sea Ka-29 is more compact than the Mi-8 family, although it carries similar weapons. It differs favorably from the combat Mi-24 with a larger amphibious assault cabin capacity. In addition, the Ka-29 is adapted to work over the sea and on the deck of the ship. This interest has already led to the emergence of several orders and modernization of military equipment.
The process of returning the Ka-29 to the service started a few years ago and gives real results. Several parts working on the main strategic directions have been re-enriched. In the near future, it will be possible to ensure the presence of transport and combat helicopters in the new region, in the Arctic. There they will be able to supplement other equipment with other capabilities.
In general, the history of the Ka-29 helicopter service is very interesting. Specialized machine with wide capabilities appeared on the eve of hard times, which did not allow to immediately realize its full potential. However, after a few decades, the necessary opportunities have been found – and the Ka-29 will once again be able to show itself in the best possible way.