Airstrikers: how is the deadliest weapon used for armored vehicles

Image source: Фото: РИА Новости/Евгений Биятов

Russian combat helicopters are equipped with modern anti-tank missiles

Russian front-line aviation helicopters equipped with anti-tank missile systems played a huge role in repelling the summer counteroffensive of the VFU in the southern section of the SVO zone. Modern ATGMs are the most effective weapon against armored vehicles in the form of tanks and armored vehicles, as well as strong points, artillery installations and enemy helicopters. What systems of guided weapons are equipped with modern Russian "turntables" and what role they play on the battlefield, Izvestia understood.


In the early 1960s, experiments began on equipping Mi-4 helicopters with anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). These vehicles had high mobility and the ability to get in the way of advancing enemy armored vehicles in time. It was extremely difficult for tanks to fight them, and mobile anti-aircraft systems did not exist at that time.

By the end of the 1960s, Mi-4AV helicopters began to enter service with the Soviet army, which carried four ATGM 9M17M "Phalanx" launchers controlled by wires, as well as up to six blocks of unguided UB-16-57UMV missiles, bombs, incendiary tanks and a large-caliber machine gun. A total of 200 Mi-4AVS were built.

Mi-24 multi-purpose attack helicopter during command and staff exercises

Image Source: Photo: TASS/Vitaly Timkiv

In the 1970s, the USSR adopted a noticeably more advanced Mi-24 attack helicopter, which still serves in modified versions. Initially, the same "Phalanxes" were used on it, but later it became the first carrier of the Sturm-V ATGM — a helicopter version of the Sturm complex, in which a transport and launch container was used to launch missiles.


Today's version of the Sturm complex is a more advanced Sturm-VU with Ataka missiles. The carriers of this ATGM are already modern helicopters of front—line aviation Mi-28N and Ka-52. "Ataka" is a supersonic missile and has a range of 4-8 km. The Ka-52 carries up to 12 missiles of this type, and the Mi-28N carries up to 16. The main targets of the "Attacks" are any modern tanks, armored vehicles, strong points, artillery installations and enemy helicopters. Although, it should be noted, the AFU helicopters are trying not to appear over the line of combat contact because of the superiority of Russian air defense systems.

The novelty of the special military operation is the universal LMUR missile "product 305". The abbreviation stands for "light multipurpose guided missile". In fact, it is a heavy anti-tank missile with unique characteristics: a range of up to 15 km, a warhead weight of 25 kg. She can handle any modern tank, but she can also be used as a universal high-precision missile to hit any targets and objects.

Mi-28n helicopters in the SVO zone

Image Source: Photo: TASS/Press Service of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Modern optical guidance allows it to be used in the "shot and forgot" mode — the pilot-operator selects a target in the scope of the complex, presses "start", the rocket remembers the target and flies to it completely autonomously. A telenavision mode is also possible — when a rocket is launched towards a potential, but so far invisible target. The operator fixes the target when it enters the field of view of the television homing head (GOS) of the rocket — then the rocket goes completely automatically.

In 2020, the Mi-28N and Ka-52 helicopters began to be equipped with the "product 305". In the course of the SVO, the LMUR proved to be a very effective means of defeating any enemy objects. Each helicopter can carry from two to four ammunition of this type.


One of the most effective specialized anti—tank complexes for helicopters today is the Russian ATGM 9K121M "Whirlwind" with 9M127-1 "Whirlwind-1" missiles. The Ka-52 helicopters are equipped with the complex, and this is the only modern ATGM whose rocket has a flight speed twice the speed of sound.

Work on the creation of an anti-tank complex with revolutionary characteristics for arming aircraft and helicopters of front-line aviation was started in the 1980s at the Instrument Design Bureau under the leadership of Arkady Shipunov. It was specially created to guarantee the defeat of the then newest Western tanks "Abrams" and "Leopard" in the conditions of enemy air defense on the battlefield.

jpg" title="Operation of Ka-52 helicopters in the SVO zone">

The work of Ka-52 helicopters in the area of its

Image source: Photo: TASS/Alexander Polegenko

The rocket with a high supersonic flight speed was chosen just so that the helicopter could destroy enemy armored vehicles quickly and surely. Each reconnaissance and strike Ka-52 can carry up to 12 transport and launch containers with "Whirlwind" missiles.

The missiles of the complex have a laser guidance system and are equipped with a powerful tandem cumulative warhead weighing 12 kg. The armor penetration of the ATGM "Whirlwind" is at least 1200 mm of homogeneous armor. This makes it guaranteed to destroy any modern tank.

Of course, the "Whirlwind", like other ATGMs, can be used for different types of targets — its high-speed capabilities allow you to confidently hit not only hovering helicopters, but also targets that move at speeds up to 800 km /h. So, during the tests of the complex, the Tu-16 target aircraft was hit.

The range of the ATGM is 10 km, and this is more than that of the main models of mobile anti—aircraft systems of a potential and real enemy. And more than twice the range of the Stinger-type complexes that are in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Photo: TASS/Alexander River

Image source: iz.ru

It was the Ka-52 helicopters with the "Whirlwind" complexes that hit a large number of Ukrainian armored vehicles during the counteroffensive of the VFU in June-July 2023 in the southern direction of the SVO. Missile guidance systems make it possible to work effectively at long range from ambushes, and high mobility makes it possible to maneuver fire on a wide front.

Helicopters are being transferred from site to site and sniping destroy those few pieces of equipment that manage to infiltrate the line of contact through minefields. Sometimes, of course, it resembles a win-win shooting at a shooting range, but this is the merit of modern anti-tank complexes and their guidance systems, which are equipped with Russian front-line aviation helicopters.

Dmitry Kornev

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