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 7/11/17

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 (S/N 300, 301). As the result its rotor blades and tail boom can be folded to save parking space. More Z-18Js are being acquired for the aircraft carrier Shandong. 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 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 1/17/20

Z-18F Sea Eagle

First seen 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 consequently the FLIR/TV turret was relocated to the starboard side. It is believed to carry a new LF dipping sonar through a round 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 Yu-7K torpedoes and AShMs (e.g. YJ-9). 30 small openings are positioned along its rear loading ramp for dropping sonobuoys. Two prototypes were built (01 & 02) and undergoing various tests. As a heavy ASW helicopter, Z-18F is expected to be stationed onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning. One Z-18F (01?) prototype was spotted onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning in January 2017. The latest image (June 2019) suggested that Z-18F has been in service onboard the aircraft carrier Liaoning (S/N 33x). The latest image (November 2019) indicated that an improved variant of Z-18F is being developed at Changhe, featuring a Z-8CJ style engine compartment with new domestic engines inside.
- Last updated 11/27/19


Since late 2014 PLA Army has been evaluating its own version of Z-18 (Z-8G) for high altitude operations in Tibet. Its range is about 1,000km. 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. It features a glass cockpitA 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. Z-8G is expected to replace Z-8A/B currently in service with PLA Army. A recent video (January 2018) indicated that Z-8G has entered the service with PLA Army with or without the SATCOM antenna on top of the tail boom (S/N LH 9538xx, 9118xx, 9828xx, 9718xx). The latest news suggested that a wide-body variant of Z-8G (Z-8L) flew for the first time at the end of 2017. The helicopter appears to share some similarity with the American S-92 featuring large sponsons (external fuel tanks) on both sides of the fuselage. Consequently its internal cargo space has been largely increased. The helicopter also has RWR and MAWS sensors mounted on both sides of its forward and rear fuselage as well as a terrain following radar beneath the nose cone. DIRCM turrets (or simply LWR sensors) similar to American AN/AAQ-24 were speculated to have been installed on the sides of sponsons which provide self-protection against IR guided MANPADS. New turboshaft engines (WZ-7?) was rumored to have been installed. The latest satellite image (October 2019) indicated that at least two prototypes were built. The latest news (April 2020) indicated that Z-8L has completed the high altitude tests.
- Last updated 4/12/20


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, K/JZ20) finally gained full speed after Z-10 was put into production in 2010. The helicopter features a glass cockpit with at least 5 MFDs. Shoulder armor plates were installed to protect the pilots. It also features a box shaped PNVS mounted underneath the chin controlled by pilot's HMD and twin RWR antennas on both sides of the forward and rear fuselage. LWR sensors have been installed on both sides of the nose with ECM antennas on the top. A new IFF antenna was installed on the cockpit roof. A weather radar and a terrian following radar were integrated in the nose. A SATCOM antenna, two pairs of chaff/flare dispensers plus a Beidou antenna were installed on the tail boom. An FBW flight control system was installed. Active noise/vibration reduction technology was used. The helicopter is also powered by two WZ-10 turboshaft engines (~1,600kW). 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. It is expected to have a bigger cargo space and a higher fuel capacity than S-70C. In addition, it also possesses an excellent capability of operating at high altitude over Tibet. 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 after China first acquired S-70C. At least 4 prototypes (#632, 633, 635, 636) are being tested at CFTE. It was rumored that the indigenous WZ-11 turboshaft engine (1,500kW) has been selected for Z-20 but this has not been confirmed. Additional variants may have been planned, including ASW and SAR. Z-20 was expected to have entered the initial production in 2018. The latest image (May 2019) suggested that Z-20 has entered the service with PLA Army (S/N 9532xx, 9822xx), wearing a dark green color scheme and with a smaller SATCOM antenna.
- Last update 12/15/19


It was first rumored in January 2019 that a shipborne ASW variant (Z-20F, H/JZ20F) similar to American MH-60R was being developed for PLAN and a prototype flew for the first time in late 2018. It features electronic folding rotor blades and the tail boom, fiber optic communication network, integrated RF system and emergency flotation system (front & back airbags). As the result, the rear landing gear was relocated forward to the rear end of the fuselage. The horizontal stabilizer was reshaped as well so that it can be folded upwards. Z-20F also features a redesigned nose, a new cylindrical EO/LR turret in front of the nose, a surface search radar antenna underneath the chin,  a round observation window behind the cockpit, a new SATCOM antenna on top of the tail boom, a crash position indicator (CPI) and a UHF/VHF antenna under the tail boom. RWR and/or MAWS sensors might have been installed on both sides of the nose as well as the real fuselage. Rectangular MAD sensor arrays (or ESM/ELINT antennas similar to Israeli AES-210) were installed on both sides of the nose as well as the rear fuselage. A sonobuoy launcher might have been installed on the port side of the fuselage. A dipping sonar could be lowered from a round opening in the belly. Chaff/flare launchers may have been installed on the tail boom. Z-20F could carry 2 light torpedoes (Yu-9K) under the external pylons for ASW purpose. Z-20F is expected to be first stationed onboard the Type 055 DDG, replacing the old Z-9C ASW helicopter. Besides the ASW variant, a transport and SAR variant (Z-20J) is also under development. It may carry short-range ASMs (8 KD-10s or 4 YJ-9s) under the external pylons against small surface ships or FACs. ESM antennas similar to American AN/ALQ-210 may have been installed on both sides of the chin as well as the real fuselage.
- Last updated 4/4/20