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The main mission of the Kamov Ka-31 Helix is a long-range airborne and naval threat detection

The Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopter is based on the basic Ka-29TB. Originally this helicopter was known as the Ka-29RLD (Radiolokatsyonnogo Dozora, or radar picket helicopter). This AEW type was developed during the 1980s and first flew in 1988.

It was first seen during trials aboard Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. Due to funding problems and political turmoil, caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ka-31 was officially adopted only in 1995. However this helicopter was fielded by the Russian Navy in very small numbers.


A small number of these helicopters was exported to China (at least 5 units) and India (9 units). Indian helicopters were delivered between 2003-2005. In 2013 it was revealed that Chinese Navy operates the Ka-31. China obtained at least 5 of these helicopters.

The main mission of the Ka-31 is a long-range detection airborne and naval threats. This helicopter can track targets over much larger horizon than ship’s radars. It makes it an important completion for naval task force, whose ships are too small to operate carrier-borne early warning aircraft. In the Russian Navy the Ka-31 is mainly used on the Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and Sovremeny class and Udaloy class destroyers.

All four landing gear units are retractable, making space for the movement of the E-801E Oko (eye) surveillance radar’s antenna, which is a large rectangular planar array that rests flat under the fuselage when inactive.

Radar of the Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopter has a 360° coverage and can spot aircraft-size target from 150 km range. Surface ships are spotted from 100 – 200 km range. Radar can track 30-40 targets simultaneously. Helicopter has a datalink to transfer the target tracking data to the command post. The Ka-31 is fitted with GPS and digital terrain mapping systems.

In 1999 Indian Navy ordered four such helicopters, with a further five in 2001. The first batch entered service with the Indian Navy in 2003 while the second in 2004-2005. India plans to acquire some more of these helicopters from Russia. These airborne early warning helicopters are deployed on the Viraat aircraft carrier and Talwar class guided-missile frigates. Some of them operate from land bases