China’s new ‘Black Hawk’ helicopter takes maiden flight

Home-made utility helicopter successfully completes test flight, and analysts believe it has an edge over American counterpart in high-altitude regions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 December, 2013, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 December, 2013, 3:11pm

A Chinese-made, People's Liberation Army helicopter successfully made its first flight on Monday, "filling a blank" in the military's arsenal, according to analysts.

The new type of medium-lift, general-purpose helicopter completed its test flight in an airport in the country's northeast on Monday morning, the official CCTV announced later Monday evening.

The report came after a photo of the aircraft emerged from popular domestic military forum, prompting a flurry of speculation from tech-savvy military enthusiasts about its potential performance and efficiency. 

Dubbed by amateurs as "Z-20", a codename that is in line with the naming pattern of previous military helicopter models, the aircraft’s exterior is similar to the US-made Sikorsky UH-60, better known as the “Black Hawk”.

It fills a blank for the Chinese military force
Fang Bing, commentator

The PLA utility helicopter is believed to have a capacity of 10 tonnes, putting it between the categories of agile attack helicopters and heavy transportation helicopters, military commentator Du Wenlong said during the CCTV news programme.

Unlike the later aircraft designed for specific applications, the new helicopter's flexibility allows it to be modified to cope with a wide range of tasks such as assault, transportation, electronic warfare and special operations. It can even boost the country's naval power, potentially being able make landings on PLA ships such as the aircraft carrier Liaoning, Chinese media reports said. 

“It fills a blank for the Chinese military force,” deputy professor Fang Bing of the PLA National Defence University said, when asked about the new hardware's significance.

It was unclear how many units of the new model would be added to the PLA's fleet.

China last purchased two dozen Black Hawk civilian models from the United States in 1983 after officials were amazed by its outstanding performance in high altitudes.

But the military experts believe the new helicopter’s five-blade propeller, unlike Black Hawk’s four, gives it more superior performance in high-altitude regions, such as southwestern China’s vast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is home to a restive Tibetan population and is flanked by India, with which it has long-standing border tensions.