Helicopters I

Z-8/S/J/JH (SA-321Ja) Super Frelon

Z-8 is a land or ship based ASW/SAR helicopter based upon French SA-321Ja Super Frelon (13 were bought in the late 70s). The helicopter was developed in the 80s by Changhe Aircraft Industrial Corporation (CHAIC) and gave the Chinese valuable experience of building a medium-sized helicopter. Its maximum TO weight is 13t, cruise speed 248km/hr, ferry range 1,400km, service ceiling 3,050m. Its power plant are 3 WZ-6 turboshafts. For ASW mission, Z-8 is equipped with a surface search radar, French HS-12 dipping sonar while carrying a Whitehead A244S/ET52 torpedo under the starboard side of the fuselage. It may also carry YJ-83K ASMs in the future for anti-ship mission. Several Z-8s (S/N 90x7, 91x7, 8400x) were delivered to PLAN in the late 90s but poor quality had hampered additional orders from the Navy. Later the problems seemed to have been solved and the small batch production resumed in 2002 for the Navy as Z-8J (S/N 95x6, 95x7) transport helicopter. A naval SAR version called Z-8S (S/N 91x7) with upgraded avionics and a search light, a FLIR turret and a hoist first flew on December 25, 2004. At least two have been delivered to PLAN. Another SAR variant with dedicated medical equipment onboard was also developed for the Navy as Z-8JH (S/N 95x6). Four are in service with PLAN. Some were installed with a nose FLIR turret and additional external pylons to carry rocket and gun pods for anti-piracy operations. At least two Z-8Js (S/N 9566, 9576) and two Z-8JHs (S/N 9516, 9546) were seen onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning for the SAR purpose. The naval Z-8 series is expected to be replaced by the new Z-18. The latest image (September 2016) suggested that an improved SAR variant (Z-8G?) has been under development which has a hoist installed on the starboard side.
- Last Updated 12/16/16

Z-8A/K/KA/KH Super Frelon

As an army transport version, Z-8A was developed by CHAIC and 602 Institute and was certified in February 1999. Two Z-8As were delivered to the Army for evaluation in 2001 but suffered from poor quality and performance due to the insufficient WZ-6A engine. Only a small batch of 9 Z-8A (S/N LH978xx) were delivered to the Army since November 2002. Consequently Army decided to order more Mi-17V5s from Russia instead of additional Z-8As. Finally in 2007 PLAAF started to acquire dozens of much improved Z-8K (S/N 30x7x, 621x, 73x6x, 2177x) SAR helicopters and Z-8KA (S/N 619x, 626x) transport helicopters for downed pilots or paratroopers. These specialized variants are equipped with a FLIR turret and a search light underneath the cabin, RWR antennas on both sides of the nose, plus a hoist and a flare dispenser attached to the fuselage. Several Z-8K/KAs were fitted with a terrain following radar (?) under the nose. The engines is thought to be the upgraded WZ-6G turboshaft. A dust filter is installed in front the of engine intakes. Z-8K/KA also features a glass cockpit. Another variant dubbed Z-8KH was developed for the PLAAF unit stationed in Hong Kong, which has chaff/flare launchers installed in the floats. The first batch of 4 will be delivered in early 2010 (S/N 630x). The army Z-8A is expected to be replaced by the new Z-18A.
- Last Updated 2/18/17

Z-8B Super Frelon

Since 2011 PLA Army has acquired a number of the improved Z-8B transport helicopters (S/N LH958xx, 968xx, 978xx, 988xx, 998xx, 9108xx, 9128xx) similar to Z-8KH but with the floats removed to reduce weight. A new glass cockpit similar to AC313 has been installed. It was rumored that Z-8B is powered by Canadian P&W PT-6B-67A turboshaft but this seems to be unlikely. It appears that Z-8B has become a major component of PLA Army's transport helicopter fleet. Recent images (July 2015) indicated that some Z-8Bs have the floats reinstalled to improve its survivability over the water. The latest image (February 2017) indicated that a few Z-8Bs have been upgraded with a SATCOM antenna installed on top of the tail boom.
- Last Updated 3/1/17

Z-9A/B/Z-9EH (AS-365N) Dauphin

An Army Z-9A light transport helicopter was taking off. The initial batches of AS-365Ns (Z-9) license-built by Harbin Aircraft Industrial Group (HAIG) in the 90s were used mainly as transport helicopters (can carry up to 8 soldiers). However as a large number of bigger and more versatile Mi-17/171 medium transport helicopters were imported from Russia, Z-9 has become Army's primary utility helicopter for training, and other special missions which resulted in a number of specialized variants such as communication, artillery fire correction (JZP-9A) and battlefield surveillance (Z-9BZK-101) etc. A few Z-9Bs were also produced for the special PLAAF unit stationed in Hong Kong (S/N 600x, 610x). Based on Z-9A, Z-9B uses 72% indigenous components. In June 2000 two Z-9EAs (able to carry machine gun pods or rocket launchers) were purchased by Mali AF, marking the first exporting success of Z-9. Two were delivered to Mauritania AF in 2003. The production of Z-9A/B has been superseded by the further improved Z-9EH design (H425). Two Z-9s were delivered to Laos in June 2007, two more Z-9s in December 2008. The first batch of the new Z-9 entered the service with PLAAF in 2010 (S/N 70x2x, 3x1x) with a bigger nose cone. It was reported that Zambia ordered 7, Cambodia ordered 12, Bolivia ordered 6 and Ghana ordered 4. Namibia AF took delivery of at least 2 Z-9EHs in early 2012. The first batch of 4 Z-9EHs were delivered to Zambian AF in June 2012. The first batch of 2 Z-9EHs were delivered to Cambodia in April 2013. The rest of 10 were delivered in August 2013.

List of Z-9 Overseas Customers
Mali2Z-9EA, likely to have retired
Namibia2Z-9EH, one crashed in April 2014
Zambia4+3Z-9EH, one crashed in March 2013.
Cambodia12Z-9EH, including 4 armed version. One crashed on July 14, 2014.
Bolivia6Z-9EH, delivered in September 2014
Cameroon4Z-9WE, able to fire KD-8 ATGM, one crashed on April 24, 2015
Ghana4Z-9EH, delivered in September 2015

- Last Updated 9/28/16

 Z-9C Dauphin

A PLAN AS-565SA shipborne ASW helicopter was taking off carrying a Whitehead A244 torpedo. 8 AS-565SA Panther were imported in the late 80s (S/N 96x6) from France. Its domestic version is called Z-9C. The helicopter is equipped with either a French ORB-32 (onboard AS-565SA) or an indigenous KLC-1 (onboard Z-9C) surface search radar, a Thomson Sintra HS-12 (or Type 605) dipping sonar and can carry up to two A244S/Yu-7K torpedos. The helicopter was recently seen (March 2015) carrying a new low frequency sonar with a design similar to American AN/AQS-22 ALFS. A small beacon antenna is also mounted on the roof of the cabin onboard Z-9C. However no MAD or sonobuoys has been seen carried by the helicopter. Therefore it might need support from the surface ship to provide target coordinates before releasing the torpedo, and not be able to carry out the ASW mission independently. Z-9C (S/N 92x7, 96x6, 97x6) can be viewed as a low-cost alternative to complement the heavier and more advanced Ka-28s. Z-9C was co-developed by HAMC and 602 Institute and has been in production since late 2003. Some Z-9C/AS-565SA (S/N 96x6) were converted into SAR role with a search light, an EO turret and a hoist installed. Lately in order to conduct anti-piracy patrol mission off the Somali coast, several Z-9Cs (as Z-9CG? S/N 96x6, 97x6, 93x7) have been further modified to boost its firepower, with a 12.7mm PC-1A gun pod carried on the starboard side and a 57mm rocket launcher on the port side. As the result, the EO turret (housing TV and FLIR cameras) was relocated to the helicopter roof and an air data sensor was installed. A downgraded training version (S/N 98x0, 84x7x?) without the ASW gear was also produced for the Naval Academy. Pakistani Navy took delivery of 6 Z-9ECs between 2009 and 2010 to support their F-22P frigates. These were upgraded with RWRs on both sides of the nose. Z-9C is expected to be replaced by Z-9D (see below).
- Last Updated 3/24/16

 Z-9D/Z-9S Dauphin

The new Z-9D anti-ship variant prototype is shown here. Based on Z-9C, Z-9D was developed to carry up to 4 AShMs under a pair of detachable stub wings against small surface targets. The missile could be the new YJ-9, which may have been evolved from the earlier TL-10B developed by Hongdu. TL-10B is a light, radar-guided anti-ship missile used against smaller FACs and gun boats (<1,000t). Its range is 15km, speed is Mach 0.85 and its warhead weighs 30kg. The helicopter features a new fire-control radar (KLC-3B) with embedded IFF antennas installed in a bigger nose cone and the weapon control officer is seated in the rear cabin. RWR antennas are installed on both sides of the nose and the tail rotor. The helicopter could provide target coordinates to the surface ship via datalink so that the later could launch YJ-83 AShM for over-the-horizon attack. This anti-ship variant has been seen stationed onboard the new Type 056 FFGs. Two prototypes (001 & 002) were built. Currently Z-9Ds are in service with PLAN (S/N 97x6, 98x6). At least two Z-9Ds (Z-9S? S/N 370 & 371) have been converted to the SAR role with a nose mounted FLIR turret and a search light. It also has a hoist installed on the starboard side. Both helicopters are stationed onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
- Last Updated 3/23/17

Z-9W/WA/WZ/WE Dauphin

Z-9W is the first indigenous anti-armor attack helicopter derived from the license-built AS-365N. Its main armament are four KD-8 wire-guided ATGMs (range 600-3,000m, armor penetration >800mm). Besides anti-tank missiles, it can carry also two 57mm/90mm rocket pods, or two 12.7mm machine gun pods, or two 23mm cannons, or four TY-90 IR-guided AAMs. A roof-mounted optical sight provides target searching and tracking in the daylight. The helicopter wears an army camouflage but is lightly armored. It also lacks effective counter-measures against IR and laser guided SAMs. One helicopter was seen fitted with an IRCM prototype (similar to American AN/ALQ-144) behind the main rotor. However the system has yet to enter the service. Its maximum take-off weight is 4,100kg, maximum speed 315km, maximum range 664km and ceiling 4,220m. The first prototype of Z-9W flew in 1989 and dozens were produced between 90s and 2000s. An further improved night-attack version dubbed Z-9WA similar to AS 565CA Panther was developed in 2000 featuring more powerful engines and a pair of stub wings which can carry up to 8 KD-8 ATGMs or PL-90AAMs. Its nose is redesigned to carry a low-light TV/IRST turret (YY-1?) for night missions, with RWR antennas installed on both sides. A mast-mounted millimeter wave radar prototype was also tested. Z-9WA has a better armor protection in the cockpit area, a flare launcher, datalink and a redesigned NVG compatible cockpit. An air data sensor is installed on the starboard side of the cabin. A large datalink antenna is installed underneath the boom. An improved version (Z-9WZ) was also developed and it first flew on December 29, 2004. This variant is thought to feature an improved fire-control system including a laser designator which allows the helicopter to fire the new (up to 8) KD-9 ATGM or FN-6 AAM. It is also powered by two WZ-8H turboshaft engines. A few were seen carrying an EO turret under the stab wing for battlefield surveillance purpose. Z-9WA/WZs have been entering service with the Army Aviation (S/N LH919xx, 929xx, 939xx, 949xx, 959xx, 969xx, 979xx, 989xx, 999xx, 9109xx) since early 2005 as a stop-gap measure until Z-10/Z-19 (see below) enters the service. PLAAF also took delivery of a few Z-9WZs in 2007 (S/N 609x, 619x, 606x, 616x). Some of them are equipped with loudspeakers and a search light for SAR purpose. A similar variant (Z-9ZH) is also in service with the PLAAF unit stationed in Hong Kong (S/N 620x). Its export version has been designated as Z-9WE. Its engine intakes can be installed with dust filters for desert operations. 4 were delivered to Kenya in 2010, marking the first export success of this variant. 2 more were expected to be delivered to Kenya in 2013. In addition Cameroon ordered 4. All were delivered in 2014.
- Last Updated 6/22/16

Z-10/H/K Thunderbolt
A fully loaded Army Aviation Z-10 attack helicopter was preparing for the 2015 VJ Day Parade in Beijing. Co-developed by the 602 Institute, CHAIC and HAIG as the first dedicated modern attack helicopter for PLA Army Aviation since 1998, Z-10 is generally believed in the same class as South African Rooviak and Italian A129, yet still not as capable as American AH-64 Apache. The helicopter adopts a standard gunship configuration with a narrow fuselage and stepped tandem cockpit with the gunner in the front seat and the pilot in the backseat. The fuselage appears to have a stealthy diamond shaped cross section to reduce RCS. It also have a 5-blade main rotor made of composite material and an AH-64 style 4-blade tail rotor. All the critical areas of the fuselage including the cockpit and fuel tanks are believed to be protected by the armor plates, including shoulder armor plates to protect both pilots. It weighs about 5.5 tons and was powered initially by two P&W PT6C-76C turboshaft engines (rated @ 1,250kW each) on the prototypes. However domestic developed engines (upgraded WZ-9) are being used in production batches due to the embargo imposed by the Canadian government. It was speculated that Z-10 could be powered by the new WZ-16 turboshaft engine (~1,500kw) in the future. Its rotor and transmission systems may have been designed with some technical assistance from Eurocopter France and Agusta. Its main weapon are 8 KD-9 or KD-10/KD-10A ATGMs in the same class of American AGM-114 Hellfire. A 23mm chain gun (PX-10A) is mounted under the chin, aimed via gunner's helmet mounted display. Some Z-10s were also seen carrying a new gun with a reduced weight. Also up to 8 PL-90 AAMs can be carried against enemy helicopters and slow-moving fixed wing aircraft. Its range can be further extended by external fuel tanks. Similar to AH-64, Z-10 features nose mounted PNVS and TADS housing FLIR, TV camera, laser range finder and designator. RWR and PD radar MAWS antennas (similar to American AN/ALQ-156V) are installed on both sides of the forward and aft fuselage. In addition, two laser warning receivers (LHRGK003A) was installed on top of the pylon tips. The helicopter may have been fitted with an integrated communication/navigation system, a comprehensive ECM suite, IFF, chaff/flare launchers, 1553B data bus, HOTAS and a glass cockpit. A preliminary concept was developed in 1995 by Russian Kamov OKB as a contrator. The full development started in 1998 at 602. Two prototypes were built in 2003 and six more were built in 2004. The first flight of 02 prototype took place on April 29, 2003. Several Z-10 prototypes powered by PT6C-76C engine were evaluated by the Army in 2007. However the serial production was delayed due to the embargo of PT6C-76C engine imposed by the Canadian government. In 2009 it was reported that an "optimized" version was under development and expected to enter the mass production. This version is powered by the less powerful WZ-9 engines (~1,000kW) thus was forced to have its weight reduced by eliminating certain non-critical parts and structures such as less armor protection, smaller PNVS/TVDS (WXG1006) on the nose similar to that of Z-9WA and a smaller weapon load. After its design certification in October 2010, the first batch of 12 Z-10s entered the service with PLA Army Aviation (S/N LH951xx) in late 2010. More Z-10s are entering the service with the Army (S/N LH981xx, 961xx, 941xx, 991xx, 911xx, 971xx, 9101xx, 921xx, 931xx?) since late 2011. However some still carry the original PNVS/TVDS installed on the prototypes but are powered by WZ-9 turboshafts. This version (Z-10H? S/N 981xx, 991xx, 951xx) also features additional equipment such as an IR jammer (?) installed on the cockpit roof. A recent image (September 2016) showed one Z-10 was landing on a PLAN Type 071 LPD in an effort to further expand its mission to amphibious assault. In March 2015 Pakistani Army leased 3 Z-10Ps (?) for evaluation to replace its aging AH-1S fleet but has yet to decide to make the acquisition. They are equipped with shoulder armor plates for better protection. A recent image (July 2015) suggested an improved Z-10 (Z-10K?) was under development and a prototype has flown. It appears to feature an improved targeting system with an additional sensor behind the PVDS, a new 23mm gun and possibly upgraded engines. A recent video (January 2016) indicated that Z-10K has just entered the service with PLAAF (S/N 636x), wearing a new camouflage. It also carries new 19-tube rocket launchers (70mm) similar to American M261 for a bigger fire power against ground targets. The next generation heavy attack helicopter in the same class of AH-64 and Mi-28 is thought to be under development at 602. However the success of this project will depend on the availability of a powerful engine.
- Last Updated 12/8/16


Z-11 is a light utility helicopter designed for training and liaison missions which only saw limited production. Two batches of Z-11s are in service at the Army Aviation Training School (S/N LH904xx), wearing a distinct red and white color scheme. Among them a few Z-11 were seen wearing an army camouflage. Developed by CHAIC and 602 Institute, Z-11 passed the certification in December 1996 and the first batch were delivered to the Army Aviation in August 1998. Compared to Z-9, it weighs less (2,200kg) and is powered only by a single WZ-8D turboshaft engine (rated @ 510kW) instead of two. Its maximum speed is 278km/h, service ceiling 5,240m, max range 598km, endurance 3.9hr. It appears that Z-11 was actually based on French AS-350BA Ecureuil, 7 of which were in service with the Army Aviation before they were retired. A scout version similar to US Army OH-58D was developed in 2004 and dubbed Z-11WA. This version features a roof-mounted TV/FLIR turret and an NVG compatible cockpit. It can carry 57mm unguided rockets, 12.7mm machine gun pod and up to 4 KD-8 ATGMs. However the program was terminated after the helicopter failed to attract any order from the Army. It was reported in October 2011 that China and Argentina signed an agreement to assemble CZ-11 utility helicopter in Argentina aiming at the South American market. The first CZ-11 assembled by FAdeA took off on October 10, 2012. In October 2015 a new scout version called Z-11WB flew for the first time based on AC311 light utility helicopter. The helicopter features a nose mounted EO turret and external pylons for missiles, rocket launchers and gun pods. It is possible the helicopter might be acquired by the armed police for anti-terrorism purpose. Z-11WB was unveiled at the 2016 Zhuhai Airshow carrying a nose mounted weather radar and a floor mounted machine gun.
- Last Updated 11/18/16

Z-19 Black Cyclone

A PLA Army Z-19 is shown here performing training exercise without any weapons. Z-19 is a light scout/attack helicopter based on H425 and developed by HAIG. The helicopter features a narrow fuselage and a tandem cockpit layout similar to those of Z-10 (see above), but with pilot sitting in the front seat and gunner in the back seat. Both crew are protected by shoulder armor plates, crash-resist seats and non-retractable front landing gears. It also features Z-9WA style nose mounted RWRs and an EO turret (FLIR, TV and laser range finder). In addition, an MMW phased array radar (from 14th & 10th Institute) was seen tested on top of the mast, suggesting Z-19 could have a capability of attacking ground targets in bad weather conditions using improved KD-10 ATGM with an MMW seeker. Z-19 is thought to retain the same engine (WZ-8), transmission and rotor systems with minor modifications from H425 which speeds up the development. The helicopter can also carry the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon package similar to that of Z-9WA under a pair stub wings, including KD-9 ATGMs (up to 8), PL-90 AAMs as well as 12.7 or 23mm gun pods and rocket launchers. Some specifications: TO weight 4,500kg, empty weight 2,350kg, max cruising speed 245km/h, max climb rate 9m/s, range 700km, ceiling (no ground effect) 2,400m, endurance >3hr. Z-19 is expected to support the heavier Z-10 attack helicopter from Changhe in a high-low combination, replacing the earlier Z-9WA. It was reported that Z-19 prototype first flew in May 2010. However one prototype reportedly crashed on September 18, 2010. Currently Z-19 is in production and in service with the Army likely replacing Z-9WA (S/N LH989xx, 929xx, 999xx, 919xx, 949xx9109xx, 9129xx, 939xx, 979xx). Its export version was first unveiled in September 2015 as Z-19E. So far Bangladesh and Myanmar have showed some interest. The latest image (February 2017) indicated that several Z-19s upgraded with the mast mounted MMW radar have been in service with PLA Army.
- Last Updated 2/23/17