Helicopters II

Mi-17/17-1V/171 Hip

An Mi-171 was taking off carrying two large SATCOM antennas installed on top of the external pylons. It is one of the nearly 100 Russian-made Mi-17/171s which represent a large portion of medium transport helicopters in service with PLA Army Aviation (LH) as well as PLAAF. In order to replace the obsolete Z-5/Mi-4, the first batch of 24 Mi-17s were purchased in 1991 following the US government's refusal to sell more S-70Cs. Additional Mi-17-1Vs were acquired later. Another 35 improved Mi-171s were purchased in 1995 with a weather radar installed in the chinBoth Mi-17 and Mi-17-1V have been upgraded to the Mi-171 standard in recent years. Since then they have been gradually upgraded by adding IFF, ASO-2V chaff/flare dispensers and external pylons for carrying up to six bombs, fuel tanks (either external or internal), or rocket launchers. Some are also able to lay mines or drop paratroopers. However unlike the similar type in service with Russian Army (Mi-8TV), these locally modified Mi-171s lack cockpit armor plates, nose machine gun, engine exhaust IR suppressors. Its cruise speed is 230km and range is 1,000km. Apparently this cheap, robust and versatile helicopter has become the backbone of LH. A few Mi-171s (S/N 3067x, LH 957xx) are upgraded with a search light, an IRST turret, and a terrain following radar (?) in the nose for SAR missions. Some Mi-171s had an IR jammer (SOEP-V1A?) installed which works together with the flare dispenser to protect the helicopter from MANPADS attacks. Some Mi-171s (S/N LH947xx, 967xx, 997xx) was seen with a cylindrical SATCOM antenna installed on top of the tail boom. At least one Mi-171 communication jamming (?) variant was installed with multiple blade antennas on top and beneath the cockpit, as well as on the rear boom. A hemispherical antenna was installed beneath the fuselage as well. Several Mi-171s (S/N 997xx, 9107xx?) were installed with a retractable battlefield surveillance radar (KLC-11?) similar to the one carried by French AS-532 Horizon battlefield surveillance helicopter. A SATCOM antenna was installed on top of the tail boom. A pair of blade communication antennas were installed underneath the nose. It also carries the fuel tanks externally to make room for the additional equipment and crews.
- Last Updated 8/25/16

Mi-17-V5/V7 Hip

In 2001, the Army Aviation introduced the new Mi-17-V5 transport helicopter (S/N LH917xx, 927xx, 937xx, 947xx, 977xx). This variant features a solid nose, two TV3-117VM engines (max power 2,200hp) and a hydraulically operated loading ramp. The two sliding doors on both sides of the cabin are also enlarged for quick troop disembarkation. Some specifications: max TO weight 13,000kg, max internal load 4,000kg, max external load 4,500kg, cruise speed 230km/h, range 715km, hover ceiling 3,980m (no ground effect). All were imported from Russia via China United Airline for "civilian purpose". 25 more were imported in 2003-04 as the improved Mi-17-V7s with the more powerful VK-2500 engines (max power 2,400hp). They are mainly used for high altitude and VIP missions in Tibet and Xinjiang replacing the old S-70Cs (S/N LH927xx, 937xx, 947xx). Like Mi-171, some have been fitted with external pylons to carry rocket launchers and fuel tanks (attached to the outside of the cabin wall). A few were upgraded to fire KD-9 ATGMs. Others were modified with an IRST turret mounted under the cabin and a search light for all-weather SAR missions. Their pilots are equipped with NVGs. A small number of Mi-17-V7s are also in service with PLAAF (S/N 11x5x) for SAR purpose. They have been upgraded with a SATCOM antenna installed on top of the tail boom as well as a terrain following radar (?) mounted under the nose. Some Mi-17-V5s have been upgraded with laser and radar warning sensors mounted on both sides of the nose. Recent images indicated some are able to carry up to 8 KD-9 ATMs for attack role.
- Last Updated 1/20/17 

Mi-171E Hip

Since 2006, the newly redesigned Mi-171E has been imported by the Army (S/N LH927xx, 987xx, 997xx, 9107xx) which has a similar configuration (solid nose and loading ramp) to Mi-17V5. A few VIP models were also imported with two fuel tanks carried externally (they are installed internally on regular ones). All Mi-17/171/171Es have been upgraded with a pair of communication antennas on top of and beneath the boom. A large digital moving map display has been installed in the cockpit. Some have a SATCOM antenna installed on top of the tail boom. Others were seen with a Beidou/GPS antenna installed on top of the tail boom ahead of the tail rotor. It was reported that China signed a contract of purchasing additional 52 Mi-171Es in August 2012 powered by VK-2500-03 engines. They were delivered to PLAAF and the Army Aviation (S/N LH937xx, 917xx, 11x5x). Recent images (May 2015) showed that some Mi-171Es are armed with a 12.7mm machine gun for suppressing "soft targets" on the ground through the side loading door.
- Last Updated 2/11/17

S-70C-2 Black Hawk

24 Sikorsky S-70C-2s equipped with a nose-mounted weather radar and upgraded engines (T700-GE-701A, 1,723shp) were bought in 1985 (S/N LH922xx). Its cruise speed is 270km and range is 560km. The helicopter can be fitted with shoulder-mounted stub wings with pylons able to carry 4 external fuel tanks so that a longer range could be achieved but at the cost of increasing drag. Most Black Hawks are used for troop transportation and SAR in Tibet and in Xinjiang, due to their excellent performance at high altitude. As the result a least three were lost in the harsh environment. Some Black Hawks were equipped flare dispensers and 12.7mm machine guns when flying logistical missions along the disputed Sino-Indian border. Due to the shortage of spare parts caused by the US embargo, many are thought to be grounded and their missions have been replaced by the newly imported Mi-17-V7/171Es. Recent images indicate the remaining S-70C-2s have been upgraded with a pair of blade communication antennas on top of and beneath the boom as well as two white bar-shaped antennas on the side of the boom. There were reports that China obtained the much needed spare parts from US for the purpose of "humanitarian missions" but this has not been confirmed. It now appears that Changhe has managed to overhaul the helicopter in addition to manufacturing most of the parts. Consequently Changhe has also reverse-engineered the Black Hawk design and developed Z-20 based on it.
- Last Updated 5/6/16

Ka-27/28 Helix

A PLAN Ka-28 ASW helicopter was taking off. The Navy acquired 6 ASW version (S/N 9144-9194) and 3 SAR version (Ka-27PS, S/N 9114-9134) between 1999-2000. An independent Ka-28 regiment was then established at the East Sea Fleet to fly the helicopter. These Ka-27/28 helicopters are expected to be stationed onboard the 052B/C/D DDGs as well as 4 Sovremenny DDGs purchased from Russia, where they might also provide over-the-horizon target information for the SS-N-22 supersonic missile. The ASW version is equipped with a chin-mounted a Splash Drop/Osminog surface search radar, RGB-16 sonobuoys, an APM-73V MAD underneath the tail boom and a VGS-3 dipping sonar. It can carry 6-8 PLAB-250-120 depth charges or a 350mm APR-3E guided torpedo in its internal bomb bay. This allows a single helicopter to carry out ASW missions as both hunter and killer. The import of Ka-28 from Russia indicates the helicopter was selected over the lighter and less well equipped Z-9C for ASW missions, even though the later has become the standard ASW helicopter for smaller Luhu class DDGs and 054A/B FFGs. In October 2009 it was reported that 8 more Ka-28s (S/N 9204-9274) were ordered and all have been in service with PLAN. The latest image (June 2016) indicated that an EO turret has been installed underneath the fuselage of a Ka-27PS SAR helicopter
- Last Updated 6/17/16

Ka-31 Helix

It was first rumored in early 2010 that PLAN acquired at least one Ka-31 AEW helicopter for evaluation. A total of 9 were reportedly to have been ordered and the first 2 were delivered by late 2010 . All 9 were delivered by mid-2011 (S/N 9284, 9294, 9304, 9314, 9324, 9334, 9344, 9354, 9364). The helicopters is being stationed onboard the Luyang I/II and Sovremenny class DDGs to provide AEW coverage for the current combat fleets. However, it is unlikely to be stationed onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning, which carries the bigger Z-18Y AEW helicopter instead. Based on Ka-27 ASW helicopter, Ka-31 features an E-801M solid-state early warning radar which can detect a fighter size target up to 150km away, and a surface ship up to 200km away. The radar is capable of tracking up to 40 targets simultaneously. When deployed the radar antenna is extended vertically downwards and starts rotating at 6 turns/min. When not in use the antenna is retracted horizontally upwards and stored under the helicopter's belly. Some specifications: crew 2 (pilot & navigator), length 12.5m, height 5.6m, width 3.8m, max TO weight 12,200kg, operating altitude 3,500m, cruising speed 100km/h, range 600km, mission endurance 2.5h. Ka-31 is thought to be a low-cost stop-gap measure until a fixed-wing AWACS enters the service. It was rumored that an indigenous datalink was installed onboard.
- Last Updated 8/1/16

HC-120 Colibri

This light utility helicopter just entered the service with the Army Aviation in late 2005 for primary training. It is basically an EC-120 co-developed by China, France and Singapore in the mid-90s and manufactured by HAIC. Some specifications: max TO weight 1,715kg, max cruise speed 237km/hr, range 771km, hover ceiling 5,151m. It is powered by a Turbomeca Arrius 2F turboshaft engine rated at 335kW. The helicopter also uses composite materials extensively. Initial batch of 8 HC-120s were delivered to Army Aviation Training School by the end of 2005 (S/N LH908xx). Currently around 34 are in service. HC-120 has replaced the aging SA-316 fleet to train new pilots for the Army Aviation.
- Last Updated 11/16/15