|Role||Medium lift helicopter|
|First flight||23 December 2013|
|Primary user||People's Liberation Army|
The Harbin Z-20 or Zhi-20 is a medium lift helicopter produced in the Northeast of China. Its first flight was on 23 December 2013. The helicopter has a maximum takeoff weight in the range of 10 tons, can drop troops at locations of up to 3,000 ft (910 m) altitude, and could operate from the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. It is thought to be comparable to the US made Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, the civilian Sikorsky S-70C-2 variant of which has been used by the People's Liberation Army since 1984.
Some sources suggest that the Z-20 is a copy of the Black Hawk and link the design to the Black Hawk that was abandoned by US special forces in Pakistan during the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on 1 May 2011. The sources say that Pakistan allowed Chinese officials to examine the Black Hawk wreckage. However, Aviation Week also points out that although some aspects of the design do appear similar, such as the tail wheel arrangement, there are also marked differences. For example, the Chinese Z-20 has a five blade rotor compared with the Black Hawks' four blades.
Design and development
The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has had a requirement for a high-altitude medium utility helicopter for operations in the mountainous west region since the 1980s. Initially they acquired 24 Sikorsky S-70C-2s with enhanced General Electric T700-701A engines, which gave unmatched performance even in comparison to the Mi-17V5 purchased later. Development of the so-called "10-tonne helicopter project" started in 2006, and the Z-20 made its first flight on 23 December 2013.
While the Z-20 bears a strong resemblance to the S-70/UH-60 Black Hawk series, there are several key differences including a five-bladed main rotor and more angular tail-to-fuselage joint frame, giving it greater lift, cabin capacity, and endurance than the Black Hawk, as well as a fly-by-wire design. It also has fairings installed aft of the engine exhausts and on the tail spine, which are likely housings for satellite communications or the BeiDou satellite navigation system. The Z-20 is believed to be powered by the domestic WZ-10 turboshaft engine providing 1,600 kW (about 2,145 shp), compared to the latest GE T700-701D engine that produces 1,500 kW (about 2,011 shp). These features enable it to conduct operations at altitudes up to 4,000 m (13,200 ft).
In addition to the PLAAF, the Z-20 will likely find service throughout the People's Liberation Army. For the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), it could fill the role of a multi-role naval helicopter small enough to be interoperable across all PLAN vessels while still being able to have a full suite of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities installed, something the current Ka-28 and Changhe Z-8/Changhe Z-18 cannot do.
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk
- AgustaWestland AW149
- Airbus Helicopters H175
- Airbus Helicopters H225M
- Bell 525 Relentless
- KAI Surion
- Mil Mi-8/Mil Mi-17
- NHIndustries NH90
- Denel Oryx
- Fei (26 December 2013). "China Develops New Type of Helicopter: DM". CRI English. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- Bradley Perrett (24 December 2013). "Chinese Military Utility Helo Makes First Flight". Aviation Weekly. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- Staff Reporter (24 December 2013). "Z-20: China's first domestic tactical utility helicopter". Want China Times. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- Global Times (24 December 2013). "First helicopter flight". Global Times. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- Chris Luo (24 December 2013). "China's new 'Black Hawk' helicopter takes maiden flight". SCMP. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- David Cenciotti (3 September 2013). "Mysterious Chinese Helicopter Emerges That Resembles The One Used In Bin Laden Raid". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- Zachary Keck (26 December 2013). "Did China Just Clone a Black Hawk Helicopter". The Diplomat. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
- China Has High Hopes For Z-20 Helicopter. Aviation International News. 22 November 2017.