WARSAW, (BM) – The Chinese state television China Central Television (CCTV) broadcasted a program about a medium-sized multi-role helicopter Harbin Z-20. This machine, whose appearance has been known for several years, but was presented to the public for the first time during last year’s parade, is now officially anointed as the future workhorse of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24.
The Harbin Z-20 helicopter is a medium-sized transport machine with a maximum take-off weight of 10 tons and the ability to operate from bases at an altitude of up to 4,000. meters above sea level. According to official information, the prototype first took to the air in December 2013. After his first photos appeared, it turned out to be visually very similar to the popular Sikorsky S-70. This was not very surprising as the Chinese had acquired a civilian version of the Black Hawk since the 1980s. 23 copies are in the state of the People’s Liberation Army of China, and they are also used by the Hong Kong police. So Harbin had access to this design.
A kind of surprise, however, are the declarations of the main designer of the Z-20 – Deng Jinghui. In an interview with CCTV, he said that it will be the most popular helicopter in the Chinese armed forces and will be used for a variety of tasks in the army, air force, navy, but also in the police. These declarations are not empty – the machine was to be successfully tested in various climatic conditions.
In his opinion, the structure also has great prospects when it comes to export markets. This is not surprising given the still relatively low prices of Chinese products, in this case lowered by the economies of scale achieved by own-consumption production. As Deng Jinghui said – the Z-20 should be ordered by the domestic army and services in a number comparable to the American UH-60 Black Hawk. It would probably mean the purchase of 2-3 thousand. copies of these machines that would probably be produced for the next decades.
The tasks for rotorcraft based on this platform include: providing equipment, supplies and soldiers, as well as evacuating the wounded. The machine is to be able to operate directly in the combat zone. Other anticipated tasks of the specialized versions include the operation of aircraft carriers and strike ships in landing or countering submarines, as well as reconnaissance and surveillance operations. In a word – as befits a Black Hawk clone – the Z-20 is to perform the same missions as the family of this American helicopter.
Interestingly, during the same broadcast it was declared that the Z-20 was equipped with all the latest solutions that could be offered by the Chinese industry. On the one hand, this does not prove the position of the PRC in the technical race with the United States, which already have two advanced proposals for the successor of Black Hawk (the Future Vertical Lift program is to settle between SB> 1 Defiant and V-280 Valor). On the other hand, however, one may ask what is built into this Chinese structure with a “modest” classical layout.
After all, the introduction of the Z-20 as a mass helicopter in all types of armed forces is a progress and new possibilities for operating many of its units. Airborne troops will stop relying on heavier machines of the Russian Mi-8/17 family, or those built on the basis of the French Super Frelon, which could not deliver supplies directly to the combat zone. Nor on light helicopters based on the French Dauphin (AS3650), which were simply too small for many types of tasks.
The new news may also be bad news for the American, but above all Russian aviation industry. The latter is looking for export customers usually in the same countries as China, and the Mi-8/17 and Mi-24 helicopters are one of Moscow’s best export goods. Now his position may be under threat. Of course, on condition that the PRC manages to achieve the announced scale and appropriate quality of production.
China has equipped its special forces with the latest Russian helicopters
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, as we reported on October 24.
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.
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.
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