BEIJING, January 14 (ChinaMil) -- The Z-18 series transport helicopters developed by China's Changhe Aircraft Manufacturing Company were made public in China’s military media at the end of December 2014, according to a report titled "China tests Z-18A heavy helicopter" on the British website of Jane's Defense Weekly on January 7, 2015.
The Z-18A helicopter was recently tested on the Tibetan plateau. This type of helicopter will become the second type of helicopter for the army aviation troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct operations in high altitude. The first type of high altitude transport helicopter it used is the "Black Hawk", manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft of the U.S. China purchased 18 "Black Hawk" helicopters in the mid-1980s.
The Z-18 series transport helicopters evolve from the AC-313 helicopters made by the Changhe Company. The AC-313 has a maximum takeoff weight of 13.8 tons. It can accommodate 27 passengers, with a payload of 5 tons.
The AC-313 helicopter was tested in 2012 on China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an altitude above 8,000 meters and the Z-18A transport helicopter has an equally excellent performance in high altitude.
The earliest three types of Z-18 series serve to support offshore operations, including AEW warning helicopters, VIP private planes and ASW anti-submarine helicopters.
Z-18A adopts a fuselage shape similar to the above helicopters, combining lightweight composite materials and new glass cockpit. But the Z-18A features a relatively flat nose, equipped with photoelectric detection device, and the main landing gear is not installed with buoys.
Chinese sources speculate that the preliminary task for the Z-18A helicopter is to carry and transport the AH-4 155 mm light artillery system developed by the China North Industries Corporation.
The artillery system was exposed in 2012, which is extremely similar to the M777 155 mm artillery system developed by British BAE Systems. The combat load of AH-4 artillery system is only 4 tons, according to the China North Industries Corporation.
It is estimated that the Z-18A helicopters may eventually replace the Z-8A helicopters developed by the Changhe Company. The latter, commissioned in the army aviation troops of the PLA in 2002, is an updated version of Z-8 series helicopters, modeled on France SA321 "Super Frelon" helicopter.