New online photos of China's Z-20 10-ton utility helicopter have sparked heated discussion on the Internet. Let’s take a look at the new helicopter.
The Z-20 is the informal name of a medium-lift (9-10 tons) utility helicopter (similar to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk) developed independently by China. The official name of this helicopter will be announced when it is commissioned.
In recent years, a large number of Z-10, Z-19 and other armed helicopters have joined the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), making up for China's lack of reconnaissance and attack helicopters.
However, China has been lacking a 10-ton general tactical helicopter to carry out assault transport, airlift and logistic support tasks. Although China has the large military transport aircraft Y-20, it is more suitable for remote transport and delivery tasks. Short-range transport and assault operations still need a general helicopter like the Z-20.
China acquired 24 US Black Hawk helicopters in the 1980s. These helicopters helped China fully understand the leading aviation technology of the US. The Black Hawk’s flight performance, material technology and reliability were much higher than those of China’s homegrown helicopters at that time.
In the 1980s, it was said that the Black Hawk was the only helicopter in China that could be used in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The Black Hawk played a huge role in many remote areas of China. As late as the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, eighteen UH-60 Black Hawks were dispatched to conduct rescue operations, although these helicopters had been in high-load service for many years.
China once considered copying the Black Hawk when it was first introduced to China. Although the model was only the civil export model, the technology was something beyond China’s reach at that time. For example, the manufacturing process of large-size titanium parts used in Black Hawk couldn’t be found in Chine even in the 1990s.
Although the Black Hawk was a product of the 1970s, China was not able to come up with a similar product even in the early 21st century. As it is with most models, the learning process from the Black Hawk was a very difficult process requiring countless accumulation in materials, workmanship, processing and research and development, as well as 20 years of running-in and an experienced team.
The arduous course of the development of the Chinese helicopter industry has actually been a painful process that countries with less developed aviation industries must go through.
The Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter is said to be in the late stage of development. It is expected that in the near future, the final design work of the Z-20 will be completed and the helicopter will soon join the PLA Army and Navy service.
In the foreseeable future, the combination of the Y-20 transport aircraft and Z-20 utility helicopter will effectively link the strategic and tactical transport in the PLA.
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