China has equipped its special forces with the latest Russian helicopters

BEIJING, (BM) – According to the Rostech state report, in 2019, the Russian Helicopters company, which belongs to it, concluded contracts for the supply of 121 helicopters to China, learned citing the Polish news agency Defence24.

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They include the Mi-171 with the K-2500 engines used in the Ka-52 and Mi-28 combat machines, as well as 18 state-of-the-art Mi-171Sz machines, probably intended for Chinese special forces. The report on last year’s results of the Rostech concern, which owns most of the companies in the Russian defense industry, revealed orders from the Chinese authorities, including:

  • 68 multi-role Mi-171 helicopters;
  • 14 multi-role Mi-171E helicopters;
  • 18 Mi-171Sz combat and transport helicopters;
  • 21 Ansat light helicopters.

Some of the Mi-171 machines [export variant of the Mi-8AMTSz] and Mi-171E, equipped with the latest version of the WK-2500 engine with digital control, may not be intended for the armed forces, but for rescue services and civil transport. Similarly, the light Ansat machines, which are used in the Russian army for pilot training and liaison tasks.

The Mi-171Sz, which appears in 18 copies, deserves special attention. It is the latest export variant of the Mi-8/17 helicopter in the combat version, produced by the Ulan-Ude plant. It is equipped with a digital avionics with multifunctional displays, which allows the crew to be reduced from 3 to 2 people, and the latest WK-2500 engines with digital control, which improve the machine’s performance, especially in high temperature and high altitude. The helicopter is adapted to flights with NVG goggles, as well as to flights in any conditions according to instrument indications. He also received optoelectronic heads, which also allowed the use of guided missiles.

The first helicopters of this type have probably already been delivered to the Chinese armed forces. In September, Chinese Phenix News broadcast a report from the Ulan-Ude plant, one of two variants of the Mi-8/17 helicopter in Russia. Freshly painted Mi-171Sz helicopters intended for the Chinese armed forces were presented there. The machines have attracted the attention of many experts due to several specific features. They were kept in gray colors, not in the typical Chinese camouflage of multi-colored spots, used on other Mi-17/171 machines.

The helicopters are marked with reduced visibility and are equipped with a modern, stabilized optoelectronic warhead, additional crew cabin armor, as well as a winch and mount for landing lines. The triple thermal trap launcher blocks on the sides of the hull look the same as in the machines equipped with the President-S system.

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In such a configuration, the Mi-171Sz helicopters will certainly not be used as ordinary transport machines. Most likely, they ended up in a unit supporting special forces or carrying out Combat SAR rescue missions. This indicates not only the further, close cooperation between Moscow and Beijing, but also suggests that none of the Chinese helicopters achieved similar performance, especially in “hot and hight” conditions, i.e. typical for operations in the area of ​​a border dispute with India.

China began testing its first unmanned helicopter

The first Chinese unmanned helicopter AR500C, designed for operations at high altitude, first took off. According to Defense World, in the future, Beijing will be able to use UAVs of this type when patrolling the border with India as we reported in May this year.

The device AR500C was developed by the Chinese state corporation AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China). The first flight took place at the base in Poyang (Jiangxi Province, East China). Tests included several types of maneuvers, including hovering, movement in horizontal and vertical planes.

“The test flight of the AR500C occurred at a time when tensions on the border between China and India intensified,” said the Chinese publication Global Times. The situation escalated after Chinese forces strengthened border control measures and took the necessary steps in response to the “illegal construction of defense facilities in India in the Galvan Valley region.”

The developers claim that the practical ceiling of the AR500C reaches 6,700 meters. The drone can be in the air for up to five hours. Its maximum speed is 170 km / h. The maximum take-off weight is 500 kg. The main purpose of an unmanned helicopter is reconnaissance and relay communications. But, as representatives of AVIC indicate, when equipped with additional equipment, the device can perform electronic warfare tasks, strike at ground targets, monitor nuclear and chemical pollution, and deliver cargo.

Russia will develop unmanned helicopters for the army and fleet reported on September 19 that the Russian Ministry of Defense has commissioned the development of unmanned reconnaissance and attack helicopters that will be able to operate within a radius of 20-30 km and cooperate with manned machines, such as the modernized Ka-52M.

The project is being carried out by the Central Research Institute of the Air Force of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Similar tasks were set in the rotorcraft program for the navy.

Information on research and development projects implemented by the Central Research Institute of the Air Force appeared during the Army-2020 forum in August this year. in Moscow and were confirmed during the recently concluded HeliRussia-2020 exhibition.

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The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has defined the requirements for two separate projects whose requirements for the machine are very similar, but their equipment and armament are to be different.

“The unmanned helicopter is being developed to cooperate with the aviation of the land forces. It is planned to conduct joint combat operations of manned and unmanned helicopters that will perform reconnaissance and strike missions” reported representatives of the Air Force Central Research Institute during the Defense Industry Forum Army-2020 be a machine with a take-off weight estimated at 2.5-3 tons, which will be able to cooperate with land-based manned helicopters at the tactical level with a radius of 30 km, but no information on flight endurance requirements is available.

The machine will be equipped with optoelectronic and radar surveillance systems as well as guided weapons. The main applications are recognition and detection, identification and destruction of selected targets in cooperation with manned helicopters.

This plan is compatible with the ongoing work aimed at enabling Ka-52M helicopters to cooperate and control unmanned aerial vehicles similar to those deployed on the American AH-64E Apache Guardian machines. The armament of the new unmanned aerial vehicles will be the same types of missiles as manned helicopters, i.e. Ataka with a range of 10 km and Hermes-A with twice the range.

The Russian Navy is also considering introducing in-flight unmanned helicopters to increase range and target detection efficiency. Experts from the Air Force Central Research Institute emphasize that currently the range of water-to-water and water-to-ground missiles significantly exceeds the detection capabilities of surface units. It is necessary to raise the sensors higher to increase the radar horizon, or to move them by several to several dozen kilometers towards the enemy forces.

Difficult weather conditions, which would make it impossible for lighter machines to start, are also important. In this role, unmanned helicopters with a mass of at least 1-2 tons, enabling the transfer of high-performance sensors to the appropriate distance and operation in rain, snow or gusty winds, are to prove themselves.

Currently, there are machines in service that are too light to operate in difficult weather conditions and achieve the required parameters. Among them is the Horizon-100, the license version of the popular Camcopters S-100 machine, and the VRT300 helicopter developed by Russian Helicopters, VR Tech 350, tested in arctic conditions.

It is very likely that, following the path already cleared by the US Navy with the MQ-8 Fire Scout project, the Russians will use the already existing manned helicopter as a base. It is not excluded that a new machine will be created, derived from earlier projects.

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