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Kamov Ka-31 (Helix)

Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Naval Helicopter


The Kamov Ka-31 twin-rotor helicopter is an AEW variant of the successful Ka-29 navy family line.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Kamov Ka-31 (Helix) Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Naval Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 5/29/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Kamov Ka-31 "Helix" series of medium-lift navalized helicopters was born out of a Soviet Navy need for an interim Airborne Early Warning platform while resources went to the proposed dedicated Antonov An-71 "Madcap". The An-71 would have operated directly from the flight decks of the limited Soviet carrier force but was cancelled when interest fell to the Yakovlev Yak-44 solution. The Yak-44 itself would have been another fixed-wing design launching from Soviet carriers but the fall of the Soviet Empire led to a cancellation in its development. Three An-71 prototypes were completed while only a full-scale mockup of the Yak-44 ever saw the light of day. This upheaval then paved the way for a modified form of the trusted-and-true Kamov Ka-27 "Helix" shipborne, twin-rotor, anti-submarine helicopter series known as the "Ka-29". Design work began in 1980.

The Ka-29 airframe was fitted with the same radar system which would have been fielded in the abandoned An-71 design. This new Helix prototype was then designated as the Ka-29RLD. The fuselage was widened but still retained the very identifiably stout Helix family form including its contra-rotating, stacked main rotor assemblies. The four-point undercarriage was retractable when the radar was utilized in an effort to keep the assemblies from interfering with the system (four single-wheeled main landing gear legs, two forward, two aft). The E-801E "Oko" radar system was fitted under the fuselage and laid flat against it when in transport, lowered only when actively used, which, in turn, prompted the landing gear to be raised. The Oko system could track targets as small as a conventional fighter up to 150 kilometers away in day or night. GPS and a semi-digital cockpit were made standard and the dual engine arrangement was improved to the Klimov-brand TV3-117VMAR powerplant series. Sensors and communications were also all bettered in the resulting end product. The system then underwent a period of lengthy trials and evaluation until the helicopter was cleared for flying. First flight was recorded in 1987 and the type was officially recognized by the West in 1988 when a pair were seen operating on the deck of the Tbilsi.

The Ka-31 languished during the lean years resulting from the Soviet fall. However, as the situation began to stabilized somewhat in the 1990s, serial production of the Ka-31 was underway - albeit in limited quantities. It was not until 1995 that the Ka-31 was officially entered into the now-Russian Navy inventory. As time wore on, the Ka-31 went on to see upgrades to its various systems to keep it a viable platform of the modern battlefield. Approximately 35 to 40 of the type have since been built to date.

The Ka-31 is crewed by three standard operating personnel including a pilot and co-pilot as well as up to three mission specialists. The cockpit is naturally set at the front of the fuselage and dotted with an array of windscreens for excellent vision out of the cockpit. Entry and exit for the pilots is accomplished by way of hinged automobile-style doors to the forward fuselage sides. The crew cabin area is set just aft of the cockpit. The aircraft is powered by a pair of Klimov (Isotov) TV3-117VMAR turboshaft engines, each delivering 1,217 horsepower to two, 3-bladed main rotor blades. The engines are set along the fuselage roof in a side-by-side arrangement. The use of contra-rotating blades means that the Ka-31 does not rely on a conventional tail rotor to counter the inherent torque of a spinning main rotor blade system. The tail is, instead, made up of a pair of large-area vertical tail fins consistent with previous Kamov helicopter offerings to date. A top speed of 166 miles per hour is reported as is a cruise speed of approximately 126 miles per hour. Range is 324 nautical miles with a service ceiling just under 11,500 feet. As a navy-minded mount, the Ka-31 skin and critical parts are designed to resist corrosion consistent with operations over salty seas.

The Ka-31 has seen only limited foreign export sales, this to the Indian Navy as well as to the Chinese Navy. India operates at least one aircraft carrier to date while China is in the process of trialing one (ex-Soviet) and constructing several more as of this writing. The Chinese Navy is believed to have received their first Ka-31s in November of 2010. The Ka-31 remains in operation service for all its listed users as of this writing.


YEAR: 1995
STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Kamov / Russian Helicopters - Russia
LENGTH: 41.01 ft (12.5 m)
WIDTH: 47.57 ft (14.5 m)
HEIGHT: 18.37 ft (5.6 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 12,125 lb (5,500 kg)
MTOW: 26,896 lb (12,200 kg)
POWER: 2 x Klimov (Isotov) TV3-117VMAR turboshaft engines developing 1,217 shaft horsepower each and driving 2 x three-bladed main rotors.
SPEED: 155 mph (250 kph; 135 kts)
CEILING: 11,483 feet (3,500 m; 2.17 miles)
RANGE: 373 miles (600 km; 324 nm)
OPERATORS: China; India; Russia

Variants / Models

• Ka-31 "Helix" - Base series designation

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (155mph).

Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Kamov Ka-31 (Helix)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (40)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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