As new photos of China's in-development Z-20 utility helicopter trend on Chinese online military forums, analysts said on Wednesday that the helicopter would appear at a November air show and replace the imported UH-60 Blackhawk to be deployed in Tibet.
Photos showing the Z-20 taking off and flying appeared on Chinese social media and military forums, Sina Military reported on Monday.
The Z-20 is a newly developed 10-ton medium-lift utility helicopter, which will fill the gap between light and heavy helicopters, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
As a utility helicopter, it will have different versions to adapt to different terrains and weather, and is expected to be used by both ground forces and the navy, Song said.
The Z-20 can serve as a shipboard helicopter on China's aircraft carriers and destroyers.
The Z-20 is also likely to be deployed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as it is designed to deal with problems caused by high elevation including lack of oxygen, Song noted.
China bought the UH-60 Blackhawk from the US in the 1980s to carry out military missions in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, and the Z-20 with new technologies will be a better choice in the future, he said.
Chinese military fans are eager to see the Z-20 enter military service as soon as possible following other 20 series aircraft. The J-20, a stealth fighter jet, and the Y-20, a military transport aircraft, were commissioned in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
"The Z-20 is very likely to make its appearance at the Zhuhai air show in South China's Guangdong Province in November," Song said.
A small number of helicopters are already in experimental service and the Z-20 is expected to enter mass production soon, he said.
The Z-20 is not a copycat of UH-60 Blackhawk, China's military analysts stressed.
The US did not give China core technology and it is impossible for China to copy the Blackhawk without a blueprint, Song said. Even though there may be resemblances in terms of appearance, the avionics and power systems are totally different, he said.