Helicopters II

Mi-17/17-1V/171 Hip

Two PLA Army Aviation (LH) Mi-171 medium transport helicopters were taking off. 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 PLAAF Mi-171s (S/N 51x1x) were upgraded with a search light, an IRST turret, flare/chaff launchers, 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 LH9817xx) was seen with a 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. A few Mi-171s (S/N 9927xx, 9817xx) were upgraded with MAWS and RWR installed on the nose and tail boom plus flare launcher for special operation purpose. Several Mi-171s (Mi-171ZH? S/N 9927xx, 9107xx?, 9817xx, 9937xx) were installed with a retractable battlefield surveillance radar (KLC-11 SAR radar?) beneath its rear cargo door similar to the one carried by French AS-532 Horizon battlefield surveillance helicopter. A SATCOM antenna was installed on top of the tail boom. RWR and ELINT antennas were installed on both sides of rear fuselage. The helicopter can also carry external fuel tanks in order to make room for the additional equipment and crews. A recent image (November 2020) suggested that some Mi-171s started to carry a new ECM pod in order to provide electronic jamming coverage for the Z-10 attack helicopters (S/N 9937xx). The latest video (March 2021) indicated that some Mi-171s have been fitted with a 12.7mm machine gun (QJH001) to provide a limited air-to-ground suppressing fire power.
- Last Updated 3/30/21

Mi-17-V5/V7 Hip

In 2001, the Army Aviation introduced the Mi-17-V5 transport helicopter (S/N LH9537xx, 9717xx, 9927xx, 9627xx, 9617xx, 9217xx, 9517xx). 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 9727xx). Like Mi-171, some were fitted with external pylons to carry rocket launchers and fuel tanks (attached to the outside of the cabin wall). A few were modified to fire KD-9 ATGMs. A small number of Mi-17-V7s are also in service with PLAAF (S/N 53x1x) for SAR purpose. They were also modified with an IRST turret, a terrain following radar and a search light mounted under the cabin as well as a Beidou antenna on top of the tail boom for all-weather SAR missions. The pilots are equipped with NVGs. Some were upgraded with a SATCOM antenna installed on top of the tail boom. A few Mi-17-V5/V7s (S/N 9927xx, 9727xx) were upgraded with MAWS, LWR and RWR antennas as well as flotation air bags for special operation purpose. 
- Last Updated 7/31/21

Mi-171/171E Hip

Since 2006, the newly redesigned Mi-171E has been in service the Army and PLAAF (S/N LH9217xx, 9937xx, 9717xx, 9727xx, 9827xx, 9117xx, 9107xx, 53x2x) 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 transport version). 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. Images released in May 2015 showed that some Mi-171Es are armed with a 12.7mm machine gun (QJH001) for suppressing "soft targets" on the ground through the side loading door. A recent image (August 2020) indicated that a special operation version of Mi-171 (newly delivered, S/N 9937xx) is in service equipped with Z-20 style RWR, LWR and MAWS sensors as well as flotation air bags. A recent video (December 2021) indicated that Mi-171 has been carrying a new self-protecting pod with forward and side looking MAWS sensors. A recent image (January 2021) indicated that a new batch of Mi-171Es were imported wearing a desert camouflage for the Gobi desert in Northwest China (S/N 997xx).
- Last Updated 12/20/21

Mi-171Sh Hip

A video released in September 2020 suggested that PLA Army or PLAAF ordered a new batch of Mi-171Sh military transport helicopter for CSAR purpose featuring a "complete" self-protection package including an EO turret, armor plates covering cockpit and engine compartment, and flare/chaff launchers. The helicopter is in a light gray color and carries a low visibility August 1st Insignia. A total of 18 Mi-171Shes and 68 upgraded Mi-171s were reportedly ordered in 2019. By April 2021 the first batch was believed to have been deliveredThe rest is expected to be delivered by 2022. The latest image (January 2022) suggested that Mi-171Sh is in service with a PLAAF transport/SAR brigade in Eastern Theater Command (S/N 95x0x?)
- Last Updated 1/7/22

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 were expected to be stationed onboard the 052B/C/D DDGs, 055 DDG 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.  A recent image (June 2016) indicated that an EO turret has been installed underneath the fuselage of a Ka-27PS SAR helicopter. A recent image (October 2020) suggested that Ka-28 could be stationed onboard Type 075 LHD. The latest video (February 2021) indicated that some Ka-28s started to carry a new 2-digit serial number.
- Last Updated 2/9/21

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 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 combat fleets. However, it appears to be too small for the aircraft carrier Liaoning or Shandong, which carries the bigger and more powerful Z-18J 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. The helicopter might be able to provide surface ship with the AShM guidance when launching an over-the-horizon attack. It was rumored that an indigenous datalink was installed.
- Last Updated 8/12/21

HC-120 Colibri

This light utility helicopter 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 LH9073xx). 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 6/19/20