Ukrainian Saboteurs Reportedly Blew Up Russian Helicopters 500 Miles From Ukraine

Russian air force regiments flying the service’s Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters have been having a difficult war. It just got a lot more difficult.

Ukrainian air-defenses have shot down at least a quarter of the 100 or so twin-rotor Ka-52s the air force operated before Russia’s wider war on Ukraine starting late February. And now Ukrainian saboteurs have damaged or destroyed another four Ka-52s at an airfield in western Russia, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency.

“Two Ka-52s were destroyed at the airfield in the Pskov region, and two more were seriously damaged,” the intel agency claimed Monday.

It’s impossible to verify the agency’s assertion. But Russian social media users mentioned incidents involving helicopters in Pskov Oblast. And there is a video purportedly depicting the daytime sabotage. The short video depicts a man crouching alongside a Ka-52, preparing what appears to be a bomb combining an MD-5M detonator with a VZD-6Ch mechanical fuze.

The VZD-6Ch operates on a delay of up to six hours, giving a saboteur plenty of time to escape.

Ukrainian agents working in Pskov Oblast would need as much time as they can get. Veretye air base in Pskov lies 15 miles from the Russian border with Estonia, and 500 miles from Ukraine. It’s unclear how the potential saboteurs may have infiltrated Russia, but they undoubtedly traveled some distance.

Whether the apparent bombs destroyed any Ka-52s or merely damaged them, it was a powerful blow. The two-seat Ka-52 is Russia’s best attack helicopter. And they’re in increasingly short supply.

The air force has written off at least 25 Ka-52s that outside analysts can confirm. Most of them were shot down by Ukrainian air-defenses, many while hovering as their crews held laser designators on target in order to guide anti-tank missiles.

Don’t count on manufacturer Kamov to make good those losses any time soon. It took Kamov 14 years to supply the roughly 100 Ka-52s that the Russian air force went to war with. And Russia’s production of military aircraft actually has decreased owing to foreign sanctions on high-tech components that Russian industry never has been able to manufacture on its own.


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