Z-20 to Be China's Most-Delivered Military Helicopter, Multiple Variants Expected
(Source: Global Times; published Nov. 19, 2020)
A Z-20 utility helicopter is on display prior to the 5th China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin on October 9, 2019. It is very similar to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk sold to Chine in the 1990s. (GT photo)
China's latest commissioned and fully domestically made tactical utility helicopter, the Z-20, is expected to become the country's most-delivered chopper by entering service with not only the Chinese army, but also the nation's air, naval forces and armed police, with additional prospects of export sales, said the chief designer of the helicopter.

The Z-20 could play a role similar to the UH-60 Black Hawk in the US military and reach a similar number of deliveries as those for the US helicopter, analysts predicted on Thursday.

The Z-20 helicopter will be developed into a series and serve in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Army, as well as in the Air Force, the Navy and the People's Armed Police Force, and it may even serve abroad soon, Deng Jinghui, the chief designer at the China Helicopter Research and Development Institute of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China, said on China Central Television (CCTV) on Thursday.

When the Z-20 was in the design stage, the idea was for it to become a medium-sized utility helicopter with wide application scenarios just like the US' UH-60 Black Hawk series, which is in service with multiple US military branches, Wang Ya'nan, a military aviation expert and chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Thursday.

In terms of tactical transport tasks, the Z-20 can rapidly deliver key equipment, goods and combat personnel, or retrieve the wounded from the frontline. It can also work with warships including amphibious landing ships and aircraft carriers, Wang said, noting that the helicopter can be modified into special-mission variants for anti-submarine warfare, patrol and reconnaissance duties.

Deng said that he hopes the Z-20, China's fourth-generation helicopter that represents the country's highest technological level, will become the most-delivered type of helicopter in the country and remain in service for a long time.

In terms of deliveries, the Z-20 could reach a similar level as the UH-60, Wang predicted, noting that about 2,000 to 3,000 units can be expected to be built.

The CCTV report also revealed that the Z-20 was tested in harsh environments including plateaus, extremely cold regions and regions with high humidity and temperatures prior to its commissioning, and the chopper is capable of conducting missions in all areas of China.

The Z-20 helicopter made its public debut at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019. At the 2019 China Helicopter Development Forum held in North China's Tianjin Municipality, Wang Xibao, chief engineer at AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, told the Global Times that the craft uses many of the world's most advanced technologies, including active vibration controls, fly-by-wire, low-noise rotor designs and high-performance aerodynamic designs for the rotor.

It is also the first Chinese helicopter to use the domestically developed anti-icing and deicing technology for rotors, which makes China the fourth country in the world to possess such technology, CCTV reported.

The Z-20 also features domestic engines powerful enough for it to fly in low-oxygen plateaus, according to its makers.

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