Z-20 Helicopters to Play More Roles in China’s Military
(Source: China Military Online; issued Dec 19, 2020)
BEIJING --- An air assault brigade under the People's Liberation Army’s (PLA) 75th Group Army conducted an air-ground integration exercise simulating the securing of an airfield recently. The combatants took utility helicopters to avoid the enemy’s frontal fire, broke through their weak points, landed on the top of the simulated enemy's command building, and end the battle with the shortest possible time.

During the exercise, the Russian-made Mi-171 transport helicopter that is common in other troops was not spotted. Except for a small number of 13-ton Z-8G helicopters, the most choppers used in this exercise are Z-20 helicopters, which have the following highlights.

First, increased efficiency in fast-roping operations

With a double-side door design, five commandos can fast-rope from the Z-20 helicopter simultaneously, while Z-8G and Mi-171 helicopters can theoretically allow only four commandos at the same time.

Obviously, compared with the other two, the Z-20’s efficiency has increased by at least 25%. All 13 commandos can complete the fast-roping operation within half a minute.

It can be seen from the exercise that China's domestically-developed Z-20 and Z-8G helicopters have become the standard equipment of the air assault brigade. This also reflects the general trend that the Z-20 is replacing the Mi-17 series.

Second, complementary tactical cooperation with

The combination of Z-20 and Z-8G gave full play to their respective advantages in this exercise. The Z-20 helicopters concentrated on fast-roping operations, while the Z-8G carried out heliborne operations.

The joint operation of the Z-20 and Z-8G resulted from the tactical considerations. Being designed for multi-services and arms from the very beginning, Z-20 helicopter does not have a tail hatch, which means that some larger equipment and vehicles cannot be transported through its cabin doors and can only be transported in the form of external mounting.

Third, playing growingly important role as a medium-lift utility helicopter for the PLA

According to Deng Jinghui, the chief designer of the Z-20, it is the first domestic helicopter using fly-by-wire flight control. The new advanced control system does not need the mechanical lever of the traditional system, which makes the control and agility better, and the weight is also significantly reduced.

Not long ago, the trial flight of Z-20 over the snowy plateau indicates that two key technical problems have been solved. One is a new domestic turboshaft engine suitable for high altitude flight, and the other is anti-icing and deicing technology for rotors.

As a medium-lift utility helicopter, the Z-20 is expected to be utilized in various areas. It has been reported so far that several models have already been developed by China, including the armed Z-20 equipped with door guns, the ship-borne transport Z-20 with naval coating, and the anti-submarine Z-20 equipped with submarine/anti-submarine weapons. It is foreseeable that the Z-20 series will be a more and more important utility helicopter series for multi-services and arms in China’s military.

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