FACT CHECK: Posts About Russian Ka-52 Helicopters Disappearing From Ukraine Are Misleading
its started….. pic.twitter.com/Yv2Zd10H6A
— david D. (@secretsqrl123) November 16, 2023
no sighting on the battlefield or social media for about a week
— david D. (@secretsqrl123) November 16, 2023
While Ka-52 losses have been heavy, they are still being used in action, according to multiple experts and analysts.
Reports suggest Russia offered to end hostilities in Ukraine if the country dropped their plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), according to Yahoo! Ukrainian officials rejected the plans on fears they would be “double crossed,” the outlet suggested.
Social media users have been posting claims that Russian Ka-52 helicopters have effectively disappeared from the battlefield in Ukraine. One user wrote, “no sighting on the battlefield or social media for about a week.”
This claim, though, is misleading. The Russian Ministry of Defense posted footage on its Telegram channel Nov. 10, claiming it shows Ka-52 operating at night. It also claimed that Ka-52s were used to strike Ukrainian positions on Nov. 14. Check Your Fact could not independently verify either of those claims.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, refuted the post’s claims, saying that Ka-52s were still flying. (RELATED: Does Video Show U.S. Military Preparing For War?)
Ka-52 helicopters are still operating, and they are still a serious problem. Russia began operating helicopters from FARPs soon after the ATACMS strike. Just because you don’t see videos of them does not mean they are not there. https://t.co/0Wl0eeXdKS
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) November 16, 2023
“Ka-52 helicopters are still operating, and they are still a serious problem. Russia began operating helicopters from FARPs soon after the ATACMS strike. Just because you don’t see videos of them does not mean they are not there,” Lee tweeted.
Lee stated that his sources were Ukrainian commanders and accused the poster of spreading misinformation. Lee’s claims were supported by Michael Kofman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace.
A Ukrainian military reserves officer, who goes by the name “Tatarigami UA” on X, also refuted the claim on X, posting satellite images of Russian military bases and said they show at least “25 operational Ka-52 helicopters, with the actual number likely much higher.”
Amid the ongoing debate about the number of operational Ka-52 helicopters on the frontlines, I’ve analyzed and compiled imagery of bases used for helicopter operations by the Russians. The findings are summarized in this 🧵Thread:
— Tatarigami_UA (@Tatarigami_UA) November 17, 2023
Experts told Check Your Fact that Ka-52s are still being used, though one said that they “are monitoring a decrease in the Ka-52 operations.”
“Indeed, we are monitoring a decrease in the Ka-52 operations. This came with the Ukrainian military’s improved long-range strike prowess enabling salvos onto Russian forward air-bases. Especially, in October 2023, the ATACMS strike in Berdyansk marked a new calculus in this sense. Tactical aviation is very base-reliant. Now, the Russians have to operate their rotary-wing arsenal from distant bases a concept which inevitably reduces sortie ratios,” Can Kasapoglu, a non-resident senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Check Your Fact.
“Overall, it is not only Ukraine’s air defense systems anymore; tactical ballistic missile capability is also critical,” Kasapoglu added.
Mark Hvizda, a defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, pointed Check Your Fact to Lee and Tatarigami’s tweets as evidence that the Ka-52s are still being used.
“In short, I don’t think the original poster had much evidence to justify his claim that Ka-52s are no longer operating in Ukraine. While RAND does not have any sources directly on the ground in Ukraine that might be able to confirm this, I’m confident in Rob Lee’s and Tatarigami’s reports that these helicopters are still active,” Hvizda said. “Also, Ka-52s are often used in night operations. Perhaps the Russians have foregone day operations in favor of more night operations due to the inherent risks of flying in daylight. This might explain why there have been fewer Ka-52s videos surfacing on social media in recent weeks.”
Since the post’s claims, at least one video has emerged claiming to show a Ka-52 strike. The video, though, has not been independently verified by Check Your Fact, nor is there any indication of when this video was taken.
The account that made this claim also referenced Oryx, a military analysis website that tracks Russian military losses, in a separate post. The account claimed that 58 Russian KA-52s were lost before the original Oryx team left on Oct. 1.
“58+ verified by oryx PRIOR to him shutting down the site over a month ago, and he admitted that his numbers of lost equipment was low.. ” the tweet partially reads.
However, Oryx has continued to be run by Jakub Janovsky, a Czech open-source intelligence analyst, and the losses have been updated since Oct. 1.
Janovsky confirmed in a Nov. 17 tweet that the 58 losses on Oryx’s website include losses from the Oct. 17 Ukrainian strike.
I can confirm that at least 6 destroyed and 8 damaged (losses from ATACMS strikes against RU airbases) Ka-52 out of the current count of 58 total losses have been added to the loss like after Oryx retired.
— Jakub Janovsky (@Rebel44CZ) November 17, 2023
“I can confirm that at least 6 destroyed and 8 damaged (losses from ATACMS strikes against RU airbases) Ka-52 out of the current count of 58 total losses have been added to the loss like after Oryx retired,” Janovsky tweeted.
Check Your Fact reached out to the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries for comment and will update this article if responses are provided.