There are signs that China could be developing a new type of helicopter for its aircraft carriers , with the publication of research by a group of Chinese engineers on an algorithm for safer aircraft landing procedures, analysts said. The engineers are from three mainland-based universities specialising in naval build-up, shipbuilding and aviation, and they published their work in the Journal of Aerospace Engineering , a scientific journal published by American Society of Civil Engineers. They looked at a new landing model based on pigeon-inspired optimisation – calculations based on the behaviour of homing pigeons – with the aim of reducing accidents on tiltrotor helicopters. Tiltrotor helicopters can operate like a traditional helicopter or fly like a fixed-wing aircraft, allowing them to take off and land vertically and yet giving them a greater range and heft. But there have been safety concerns about this type of aircraft over the years, problems compounded by the complexities of landing the helicopters on a busy and dynamic aircraft carrier. China military: PLA in market for Russian Ka-52K heavy attack helicopters China’s military does not have any tiltrotor helicopters in service but it has been working one for more than a decade . In their paper, the engineers said they had come up with a new model for planning the path of a tiltrotor aircraft approaching a carrier, based on the way a pigeon makes a return flight. They divided the approach into flyable space and no-fly zones, suggesting a tiltrotor helicopter follow three strategic landing procedures “step-by-step” with different gradient angles. The paper report gave a series of mathematical models for such an approach, taking into account weather, carrier motion and sea conditions. “A new path planning model is developed in this study to deal with the path planning problem for the tiltrotor approaching the [aircraft] carrier,” the paper said. “The established model is essentially different from the previous path planning models.” Collin Koh, a maritime security analyst with Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the paper could be evidence that China was developing a carrier-borne tiltrotor aircraft akin to the V-22 Osprey helicopter for the Type 075 landing helicopter dock , a new amphibious platform that went into service in the Chinese navy in April. “Tiltrotor craft would be more powerful in terms of lift capacity compared to conventional rotary wing assets,” Koh said. “This [aircraft] would translate to better airlift capability for troops and materiel, which would be crucial in the event of armed conflicts, whether we are talking about Taiwan Strait, East China Sea or South China Sea scenarios.” He said a marine tiltrotor helicopter would also be able to serve on board the navy’s conventional strike platforms on the Liaoning and Shandong carriers. Lu Li-Shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, said studies from the paper would be a valuable safe landing reference and theoretical foundation for other types of short vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that Beijing planned to develop for their naval vessels. “I expect aircraft companies and the PLA’s naval and aviation institutes will join together to deliver a prototype of a carrier-based VTOL helicopter being built within three years,” Lu said. China’s first ship-borne helicopter drone makes maiden flight Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong said a model of a quad tiltrotor helicopter known as the Blue Whale was on show at a Chinese helicopter show in Tianjin in 2013. The model looked like the US’ proposed V-44 Bell Boeing quad tiltrotor based on the V-22. Wong said Chinese engineers were able to develop and build their own versions of the V-22Z as the country amassed the technological and production know-how over the years. But Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology institute in Beijing, said Beijing was still hesitant to develop tiltrotor helicopters because of the instability problems and would look to other options. “China needs large ship-borne transport aircraft to support the navy’s Type 075s and other big naval ships,” Zhou said. “China’s future ship-borne helicopter will be inspired by the design of the American Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant compound helicopter.” Unlike the V-22 and future V-44, the SB-1 is a helicopter with coaxial rotors. The aircraft is still under development and expected to replace the US Army’s UH-60 Blackhawk copters.