SOLITARY, TERRITORIAL, predatory if provoked; alligators aren’t known for being cute or cuddly – as far as wildlife is concerned. No surprise then that Kamov Sergey Mikheev, the chief driving force behind the conceptual and real-world implementation of the unorthodox Black Shark and Alligator development programmes named them such.
In Alexander Mladenov’s Gator on the Rise, we get an unfiltered, heavily detailed look in to the armoured attack helicopters created by the Moscow-based Kamov Experimental Design Bureau, the crowning achievement of a Dr Sergey Viktorovich Mikheev, the long-time General Designer of the Kamov OKB.
While the book begins with a detailed introduction, clear cut chapters and even a very helpful list of abbreviations, be warned, it is not meant for those with no background in the subject – highly technical and heavily detailed. The book is authored in a way that assumes the reader has prior knowledge and interest on the subject of armoured helicopters and scientific details – or at least a major interest in the same. This one’s not for newbies.
While the introductory chapter gives us an overview on Mikheev, it also plunges directly into his contributions to the Kamov OKB, beginning with the design of the Ka-50 and Ka-52 coaxial armoured attack helicopters and their status as the crowning glory contribution of Mikheev. The book then delves into a detailed history with the how it all began chapter taking us back to a 36-year old Mikheev and his earliest contributions – detailing everything from the need for new helicopters for the Red Army, to AAH programme features, coaxial system advantages and more.
Chapters like Birth of the V-80, Never-ending tender, Black Shark grows and evolves, Into the 1990s, Black Shark’s combat debut, The Ka-52 story begins, In the twenty-first century, International marketing efforts, Ka-52’s development continues, System development and testing completion, In RAA service, Ka-52K for the Russian Navy, Ka-52 for export and But what about the Black Shark and Kamov? are all supplemented by graphic illustrations and full-colour good quality images.
The story delves deep into the exact need for the helicopters, operational history, the initial prototypes, the changing models, the specifications, the production procedures, the updates, budgets, funding and perhaps inadvertently (or not) ends up revealing about the political and societal environment of the country.
Last but not the least, Alexander Mladenov’s background as an aviation and defence author, journalist and photographer based in Sofia, Bulgaria help give him the necessary expertise required to author a book of this sensitive nature, and he appears to have done full justice to the subject matter at hand.