Watch This Russian KA-52 Attack Chopper Accidentally Fire Rockets at Exercise Observers

The Kremlin denies the friendly fire incident injured anyone or occurred during the massive Zapad 2017 drills.

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Video footage has leaked on social media showing a Russian Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter accidentally firing rockets at observers during a training exercise, reportedly part of the larger Zapad 2017 events happening along the country's western borders. Though it acknowledged the incident occurred, the Kremlin has denied that it was related to the massive war game, but declined to give any other details.

The clips that initially emerged on Sept. 19, 2017, show a pair of Ka-52s flying toward a ground of troops and civilians apparently watching a military maneuver. One of them then unexpectedly fires a pair of rocket into the onlookers, damaging a number of vehicles, including a civilian car and what appears to be a mobile command center truck.

Another video subsequently appeared online, showing what looked like the view through the Ka-52’s Heads Up Display system. The exact circumstances of the incident are still unclear. One unconfirmed written statement said that the helicopter had inadvertently fired two S-8 80mm rockets damaging the car and truck, as well as wounding three bystanders, during a training mission on Sept. 16, 2017.

Officials from Russia’s Western Military District subsequently denied than anyone had gotten hurt in the accident and said that the training exercise was separate from the larger Zapad 2017 maneuvers. “All the reports on social media about a barrage of rockets hitting a crowd of journalist and a large number of casualties are either a deliberate provocation or someone’s personal stupidity,” it declared in an official statement.

“The targeting system of one of the helicopters erroneously locked on a wrong target,” the press release continued. “A hit by an unguided air-to-surface missile caused damage to a truck, but no people were hurt.”

The video from the HUD point of view does show a reticule move closer to the impact area before the rockets fly away, but we don’t know how or even if the helicopter’s targeting system meshes that information with a decision to automatically launch unguided rockets. No known version of the S-8 has any sort of guidance system at all, especially one that would require a positive lock-on before launch.

The Western Military distract didn’t say where or when the incident occurred if not at a Zapad-2017-related drill. That larger exercise, which began on Sept. 14, 2017, occurs only once every four years and simulates a major conventional conflict.

Fedor Leukhin via Wikimedia

A Ka-52 attack helicopter. 

More than 12,000 Russian and Belorussian forces are taking part in the vast drills, which stretch across an area from Belarus to the Barents Sea. The Kremlin insists that the event is purely defensive in nature, but NATO members and other European countries that share borders with Russia, particularly Finland, Sweden, and Ukraine see it as a provocative display of military force.

Given its size and significant, the Russians have been keen to downplay any incidents, including the “hard landing” of a Tu-22M bomber. If this friendly fire accident did happen at Zapad 2017, it would be particularly embarrassing.

It would hardly be the first time a major military has experienced a friendly fire accident during an exercise, though. In something of a reverse situation, in May 2016, a U.S. Army soldier playing the role of an enemy combatant during a training exercise shot live ammunition at an AH-64 Apache helicopter during a drill at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

AP

Putin observes Zapad related exercises on the Luzhsky Range, near St. Petersburg,

Thankfully no one got injured and the helicopter only suffered “superficial damage,” according to the Army. In that case, the circumstances were especially confusing, since so-called “opposing force” units would not receive live ammunition during exercises.

We’ll definitely be keeping our eyes out for any new information or additional video from this incident in Russia.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com