Ukraine Seizes Ka-26 Helicopter At Hungarian Border Crossing

The Soviet-era helicopter was apparently flyable up until fairly recently and was based at an airfield south of Kyiv.

byStetson Payne, Tyler Rogoway| PUBLISHED Dec 24, 2022 5:12 PM
Ukraine Seizes Ka-26 Helicopter At Hungarian Border Crossing
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Ukrainian customs inspectors made a very interesting confiscation recently in the form of a Soviet-era Ka-26 (NATO reporting name 'Hoodlum') light utility helicopter in the back of a truck bound for Hungary. 

The New Voice of Ukraine reported that inspectors and the border patrol discovered documents for the helicopter had false information during a check at the Hungarian border in Zakarpattia Oblast. Authorities subsequently seized the helicopter.

The Ka-26 was last produced in 1985 and unlike its faster Mil Mi-2 (NATO: Hoplite) counterpart, wasn’t adopted for widespread military use. However, the twin radial engine-powered Hoodlum and its cousins became common light utility helicopters. 

This particular uniquely-painted Ka-26, which likely wears the registration EW-479CM, appears to have flown as recently as October 31, 2021, when a photo on JetPhotos.com shows the Hoodlum in flight over Ukraine. The unique helicopter features the Belarussian flag and an unknown portrait on its side.

Previous images show it flying in 2017 and in a hangar at Bila Tserkva Airport, located south of Kyiv, in 2016. It was previously listed as being based there and being the only flying Ka-26 in Ukraine in an advertised "Ukraine Grand Aviation Tour" itinerary.

This isn’t the first time a Ka-26 ran afoul of authorities in the region. In 2020, Balkan Insight reported on Moldovan authorities busting an unlicensed production line of Ka-26s being exported to other former-Soviet states. 

The Ka-26 is apparently pretty good in an agricultural role, namely in Hungary where it’s still used as a crop duster. The Hungary-based KamovRider YouTube account has multiple videos showing the piston-engined Kamovs in action.

Given the past bootleg production and what appears to be a viable market in Hungary, it's possible that whoever tried to get the helicopter over the border wanted to sell to someone who would use it for that purpose. Its owner may well have just wanted to get it clear of a war zone all the same. We just don't know at this time. Regardless, something was fishy enough for Ukrainian border officials to stop it from reaching its destination.

Contact the author: stetson.payne@thewarzone.com

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