Helicopters III

It was reported in May 2015 that China and Russia just signed the agreement to co-develop an advanced heavy-lift helicopter (AHLH) for the Chinese market. The twin-engine design appears bigger than American CH-53E but smaller than Russian Mi-26. The helicopter's max TO weight is 38.2t and the max speed is 300km/hr. Its ceiling is 5,700m and range is 630km. The latest news (September 2015) suggested that China has begun to develop the next generation stealth attack helicopter with certain features similar to those of American RAH-66. Compared to the earlier Z-10/Z-19, it would have better maneuverability, survivability and joint operational capability. The helicopter could enter the service with PLA Army as early as 2020 would replace the Z-9WA/WE series.

Z-18 White Heron

It was reported that the 602 Institute/Changhe have been developing an improved medium transport helicopter (Z-18) to replace the old naval Z-8. The helicopter is thought to be based on the earlier AC313 design and features a redesigned lower fuselage and improved WZ-6C turboshafts (~1,300kw), resulting in a larger internal space and a bigger load, as well as a better performance at higher altitude and temperature. It also features a nosed mounted weather radar and FLIR/TV turret. Additional communication and navigation antennas are installed underneath the fuselage. A SATCOM antenna was installed on top of the tail boom. Both the rotor blades and the tail boom can be folded in order to save parking space onboard the ship. Z-18 has entered the service with PLAN (S/N 380 & 381) and is stationed onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning for crew transportation. In addition an ASW/anti-ship variant (Z-18F) and an AEW variant (Z-18J) have been developed for PLAN.
- Last updated 1/28/17

Z-18J Bat

A PLAN Z-18J AEW helicopter just landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning. The helicopter features a retractable radar antenna located behind a completely redesigned rear door. The radar is thought to be a long-range multi-mode AESA developed by the 38th Institute. Once the helicopter is in the air, the door opens and the rotating antenna is lowered vertically and can provide 360° coverage. The antenna is then retracted into the fuselage after the usage. The design of Z-18J appears similar to French AS-532 Horizon battlefield surveillance helicopter. Similar to Z-18, a FLIR turret is mounted underneath the nose for night and poor weather operations. Additional antennas for MAWS and RWR are mounted on the nose and rear fuselage as well. A Z-18J prototype was first spotted near CHAIC in 2009. At least three are stationed onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning to support the J-15 fighter. As the result its rotor blades and tail boom can be folded to save parking space. However due to the limited payload and internal space of Z-18J, its performance cannot match that of a fix-wing shipborne AWACS aircraft with a full C3I capability such as American E-2C. Therefore Z-18J is a stop-gap measure until a fix-wing AWACS aircraft based on Y-7 enters the service. Besides AEW, the helicopter is equipped with a hoist on the starboard side of the forward fuselage for SAR purpose.
- Last Updated 1/4/17

Z-18F Sea Eagle

First exposed in February 2014, Z-18F is an ASW/anti-ship variant based on the Z-18 transport helicopter. It features a large surface search radar under its nose and the FLIR/TV turret was relocated to the starboard side. It is believed to carry a new LF dipping sonar through an opening in the bottom of the fuselage. MAWS and RWR antennas are installed on the forward and rear fuselage. Additional communication and navigation antennas are installed on the bottom of fuselage. The helicopter also has 4 pylons installed on both sides of fuselage possibly for carrying two Yu-7K torpedos and AShMs (e.g. YJ-9). 30 small openings are positioned along its rear loading ramp for dropping sonobuoys. Currently at least two prototypes have been built (01 & 02) and are undergoing various tests. As a heavy ASW helicopter, Z-18F is expected to be stationed onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning. One Z-18F (02 prototype?) was spotted onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning in January 2017.
- Last updated 3/15/17


Since late 2014 PLA Army has been evaluating its own version of Z-18 (Z-18A?) for high altitude operations in Tibet. Compared to the naval Z-18, the Army version has a further protruding nose section which resembles that of Russian Mi-171E. and should reduce the drag during the flight. A terrain following radar is mounted under the nose. It also has a SATCOM antenna as well as Beidou/GPS antennas installed on top of the tail boom for long range communication. Once entering the service, Z-18A is expected to replace Z-8A/B currently in service with PLA Army.
- Last updated 10/3/16


A new general purpose "China Medium Helicopter" (CMH) in the 10t class has been under development at 602/Harbin/Changhe since late 90s. It was speculated to be based on American S-70C currently still in service with PLA but also shares some common features with Z-10, such as a five-blade main rotor and twin Canadian PT6C-76C engines. However the project was delayed by the development of high priority Z-10 attack helicopter. Similar to Z-10, the helicopter also suffered several setbacks due to certain technical/political obstacles, such as obtaining a suitable engine as well as developing a new transmission system (with Eurocopter assistance). The project (now designated as Z-20) finally gained full speed after Z-10 was put into production in 2010. The helicopter features a glass cockpit with at least 5 MFDs as well as a nose mounted FLIR turret. MAWS and LWR sensors may have been installed on the nose as well as on the rear fuselage. A SATCOM antenna, two pairs of chaff/flare dispensers plus a Beidou/GPS antenna were installed on top of the tail boom. Therefore Z-20 possesses strong capabilities in terms of communication, navigation and self-protection, making it more survivable on the battlefield than the Mi-17 series. The helicopter is expected to have a bigger cargo space and a higher fuel capacity than S-70C and is powered by two WZ-10 turboshaft engines (~1,600kW). Z-20 is projected to replace eventually the large number of Russian Mi-17 series in service with the Army Aviation. The first prototype was rumored to have rolled down the assembly line in December 2012. However the exact type of engine used on the prototype is still unclear (Russian TV3-117VM?). The Z-20 #20001 prototype made its first flight at the HAIG airfield on December 23, 2013, almost 30 years since China acquired S-70C. At least three prototypes (#632, 633, 635) are being tested at CFTE. The latest rumor claimed that the WZ-10 turboshaft engine has been tested onboard a Z-20. Additional variants may have been planned, including ASW and SAR.
- Last update 11/6/16