China's latest vessel-borne helicopter will take the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's combat capability to a new level, Chinese military experts said on Tuesday after a full-sized model of the navy variant of the Z-20 utility helicopter was allegedly spotted testing on a warship for the first time.
Citing a photo that surfaced on Chinese social media, Weapon magazine reported, via its social media account, on Saturday that the Z-20 navy variant was on board a Chinese destroyer and its characteristic appearance made it clearly identifiable.
Generally the same helicopter as the army version, the vessel-based navy version can additionally minimize its size in the hangar through design features like foldable rotor blades, judging from the photo. It might also feature extra anti-corrosion capabilities and stronger landing gear, said Weapon magazine affiliated with the state-owned China North Industries Group Corporation, a major manufacturer of Chinese military equipment and weapons.
Having a full-sized model on board for testing means the PLA is studying the practical adaptability of the Z-20 on ships, testing for things such as how the helicopter would enter and exit the hanger and how much space it would actually take up, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Compared to other in-service shipboard helicopters, the Z-20 has a good takeoff weight (while remaining not oversized on ships) and can better adapt to situations at seas, Li said.
Often compared to the US' UH-60 Black Hawk, the Z-20 is a 10 ton-class medium-lift utility helicopter that can adapt to different terrain and weather, military experts told the Global Times previously.
It would have the capabilities to fly on destroyers, amphibious landing docks, amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers, undertaking a wide range of tasks including anti-submarine warfare, reconnaissance missions, transportation as well as search and rescue on the high seas, Li said, noting that the helicopter will play an important role in the multidimensional and digitalized battlefield.
The Z-20 will help the Navy reach a higher level of effectiveness, Li noted.
The helicopter is seen by many military enthusiasts as a member of China's most advanced "20 series" aircraft, with the others being the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the Y-20 large transport plane and the H-20 strategic bomber.
The army version of the Z-20 has reportedly entered trial service, but the alleged commissioning has not yet been officially confirmed.