Russian Helicopters Group announced its testing of the upgraded Kamov Ka-52M ‘Alligator’ reconnaissance/attack helicopter prototypes.

In a statement Wednesday, the company said deliveries of serial-produced gunships to the troops may begin in 2022.

“Today flight tests are underway on the territory of the Mil and Kamov National Helicopter Center and 2022 is the planned term of completing the experimental design work. We comply with this term and, considering the duration of the production cycle, we are ready to begin the assembly of Ka-52M helicopters already now to ensure the first deliveries of serial-produced rotorcraft next year,” Yuri Denisenkov, Managing Director of Russian Helicopters’ Arsenyev Aviation Company (AAK-Progress), said.

Last year, the enterprise created two upgraded Ka-52M prototypes on the basis of the serial-produced helicopters, which are distinguished by improved characteristics and expanded combat capabilities, he said.

First flight of the upgraded rotorcraft considered a competitor to the U.S.-made Apache, took place in August 2020. The biggest improvement in the upgraded Ka-52 is a new radar with an active phased antenna array (AESA) besides guided missiles with increased range. It is also equipped with an upgraded optoelectronic system with an increased target detection and recognition range, a new digital drive, which will improve the aiming accuracy when firing a cannon.

The Ka-52M main rotor blades are equipped with a more powerful heating element, which will allow the helicopter to operate in the entire temperature range, including Arctic conditions. The helicopter is equipped with landing gear wheels with a higher load-bearing capacity and wear resistance, as well as lighting protection equipment based on LEDs.

The modernized Alligator also has a new cockpit interior, which will ensure the fulfillment of modern ergonomic requirements, including when piloting in the dark with night vision goggles.

Andrey Boginsky, General Director of the Russian Helicopters Holding, said last year that the “missile armament of Ka-52M is unified with that of the Mi-28NM, which has significantly increased the target engagement range.”