Simultaneously with the growth of the economy, the leadership of the PRC embarked on a course towards a radical modernization of the armed forces. In the 80-90s, thanks to military-technical cooperation with Western countries, modern models of equipment and weapons appeared in the PLA. The creation and operation of combat helicopters in China, created on the basis of the French "Dauphin", made it possible to accumulate the necessary experience and draw certain conclusions. Based on the realities of the level of development of modern air defense systems and analyzing the cases of the use of helicopter technology in local conflicts, the command of the Chinese army aviation issued a terms of reference for a specialized attack helicopter capable of fighting tanks and providing fire support day and night, in difficult weather conditions. At a certain stage, the Chinese hoped to gain access to the A.129 Mangusta anti-tank helicopter being developed in Italy, and in 1988 an agreement was reached with the Americans on the sale of the AH-1 Cobra and the license for the production of the BGM-71 TOW ATGM. I must say that there was every reason for this. In the late 70s, the countries of the West and the PRC began to "make friends" against the Soviet Union.
The United States, France, Italy and the United Kingdom for about 10 years have been quite active military-technical cooperation with China, within which, for example, a batch of SA anti-tank helicopters was sold. 342 Gazelle with ATGM NOT. However, in connection with the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989, sanctions were imposed against the PRC, and there could no longer be any talk of the supply of modern Western weapons. After the normalization of relations with Russia, the export Mi-35 was offered to the Chinese. However, by that time, Chinese experts had already gotten to know the widespread Mi-25 (an export version of the Mi-24D combat helicopter) and found it too heavy and cumbersome. In addition, the sighting and search systems of Soviet combat helicopters are largely outdated. And the Mi-24 itself, created as a "flying infantry fighting vehicle", was more often used as an attack aircraft, the main weapon of which was unguided rockets, and the PLA command wanted to have a maneuverable and at the same time well-protected two-seat vehicle comparable to the American one. Apache "and has a high anti-tank potential.
At the aerospace showrooms, the Chinese, of course, could see the Mi-28 and Ka-50. It is not known whether our rulers were smart enough not to sell these helicopters to the PRC, or whether the Chinese military-political leadership decided to refrain from purchasing small-scale and still very "raw" aircraft, but modern Russian attack rotorcraft were not supplied to China. However, it was not without Russian help in the creation of a Chinese combat helicopter.
The example of the appearance of the Z-1 combat helicopter clearly demonstrates how modern aircraft were created in the PRC in the past. The official designer of the Z-10, which received the designation in China "Fire Lightning Strike," within the "Program 823" was the 602nd Research Institute, aircraft corporations China Aviation Industry Corporation II and Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation. At the same time, the program for creating a Chinese combat helicopter was strictly classified, and strictly dosed contradictory data were given in the media. This was largely due to the fact that the provision of military technologies to the PRC was prohibited due to the sanctions imposed by the West, and the creation and supply of a number of key components and assemblies by European and American companies was motivated by civil projects. All equipment ordered in the West was allegedly intended for a middle-class civilian helicopter. The Chinese managed to mislead their "Western partners" for about 10 years. For example, Eurocopter and Agusta received more than $ 100 million for their assistance in the development of the transmission, control system and five-bladed rotor. The helicopter cockpit and avionics are largely reminiscent of the products of Thomson CSF and Thales. The Z-10 uses a data bus, designated GJV289A in the PRC. It is analogous to the American MIL-STD-1553. There was information in the media that a sighting and survey complex created by the South African company Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE) could be used on a Chinese combat helicopter.
In the summer of 2012, the US government fined a subsidiary of Pratt & Whitney Canada, United Technologies, $ 75 million for the supply of a batch of PT6C-76C engines. As a result, Western companies curtailed all cooperation with the Chinese corporation Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC), but this happened after the Z-10 prototype took off for the first time in April 2003. However, as it turned out quite recently, back in 1995, a secret agreement was concluded with the Russian side, according to which the Kamov Design Bureau and CAIC created a joint design group that worked on a catalog of drawings for 2, 5 years. According to the representative of the Russian company, the engineering and design group of the Kamov Design Bureau performed design work in accordance with the parameters and layout scheme proposed by the Chinese side. However, the Chinese are currently denying all accusations, stating that the Z-10 is 100% designed by Chinese developers and is fully assembled from components manufactured in the PRC.
The Z-10 attack helicopter has a classic tandem crew layout. From the very beginning, it was envisaged that the helicopter controls would be installed in both cabins. As in the European "Tiger", the pilot's workplace is located in front. On the latest version of the helicopter supplied to the troops, there are two large multifunctional LCD displays in the cockpit of each crew member.
To control the weapons, a helmet-mounted aiming system is used, similar to the American Honeywell M142 Integrated Helmet. Flights at night are provided with equipment built on the basis of French and Israeli developments.
It is reported that before the arrival of the Z-10 in the combat units of the Chinese army aviation, the sighting and search equipment of the helicopter was changed three times. According to Western experts, the possibilities of using a helicopter at night, searching for targets and using guided weapons at the moment roughly correspond to the American helicopter of the AN-64A Apache modification. However, the security of the Chinese helicopter is far from the level of the American rival. At least, when condemning the export of Z-10 to Pakistan, it was officially announced that the fuselage of the Chinese attack helicopter can withstand the shelling of 12.7 mm bullets. It is stated that the 38 mm thick frontal armored glasses of the cab also protect against bullets from large-caliber machine guns, however, it is not specified from what distance. The shock-absorbing system of the landing gear and the pilot's seats ensures the survival of the crew during an emergency landing at a vertical speed of 10 m / s, which is somewhat lower than the safe landing speed which was achieved on American, European and Russian combat helicopters.
At the same time, "Fire Lightning Strike" is equipped with all the necessary set of equipment for countering air defense weapons and sensors for detecting radar and laser radiation. It is safe to say that the equipment installed on Chinese machines is comparable to the analogs available on the Apaches, Mongoose and Tigers. If in ballistic protection and weight perfection, Chinese combat helicopters are still inferior to modern foreign attack rotorcraft, then there is no reason to doubt the level of Chinese electronics. The onboard self-defense system, known as the YH-96, automatically analyzes possible threats and, if necessary, can independently generate interference and shoot heat and radar traps. Navigation is provided by Beidou satellite positioning system signal receivers.
According to information announced in the Chinese media, at the moment there is a fine-tuning and adaptation of the millimeter-wave radar. Allegedly, this station is in no way inferior to the American over-sleeve AN / APG-78 Longbow. The Chinese radar, known as the YH MMZ FCR, weighs about 70 kg, which is significantly less than the mass of the Arbalet radar on the Mi-28N. It is argued that the YH MMZ FCR station is fully compatible with the fire control system, and the supply of helicopters with an overhead radar will begin to the troops in the near future. It is stated that the detection range of the Chinese helicopter airborne radar exceeds 30 km. But it is unclear whether we are talking about air or ground targets. The combat helicopter equipment includes a KZ900 SIGINT suspended reconnaissance container with radar reconnaissance equipment. Although helicopters with such containers were repeatedly demonstrated to the general public, the composition of the equipment and the spectrum of operating frequencies were not disclosed.
In 2006, the first blurry photographs of a Chinese attack helicopter appeared. Western observers initially considered it to be a copy of the Italian A.129 Mangusta, but later revealed that it was a larger and heavier vehicle. The termination of the supply of American engines somewhat slowed down the process of fine-tuning and adoption of the Z-10. As a result, production helicopters are equipped with two Chinese Zhuzhou WZ-9 turboshaft engines with a takeoff power of 1285 hp. with. Western sources say that Russian and Ukrainian specialists participated in the development of the engine control system.
The flight data of the Z-10 combat helicopter is not reliably known. Apparently, the maximum take-off weight is in the range of 6700-7000 kg. Based on the ratio of the power of the power plant and the mass, it can be assumed that the maximum speed of the helicopter is about 300 km / h, and the rate of climb is 10 m / s. According to information published in the Chinese media: the flight range exceeds 800 km, and a combat load weighing 1500 kg can be placed on the external hardpoints.
The Chinese combat helicopter can carry up to 16 HJ-8 and HJ-9 ATGMs. However, the main weapon is the HJ-10 guided missiles. Western reference books write that this missile is the Chinese analogue of the AGM-114 Hellfire ATGM.
However, unlike the Hellfire, the Chinese missile has a narrower warhead, which is supposedly done to reduce drag. It is reported that the HJ-10 may have a television, thermal and laser guidance system. In total, up to 8 HJ-10 ATGMs are suspended on the external nodes.
Since the Z-10 helicopter in the future should receive a millimeter-wave radar, it appears that work is underway to create an ATGM with a radar seeker. According to Jane's Defense Weekly, HJ-10 missiles with laser seeker were delivered to Saudi Arabia and Sudan. The launch range of the export modification, weighing about 47-50 kg, is capable of reaching 10 km. Flight speed - 340 m / s. Armor penetration - 1000 mm. The missile can also have a thermobaric and armor-piercing high-explosive penetrating warhead.
In addition to the ATGM, the helicopter can carry 57-90-mm NAR blocks on four external suspension nodes. Containers with 7, 62 mm, 12, 7 or 14, 5 mm multi-barreled machine guns or 35-40 mm automatic grenade launchers. The TY-90 missile launcher with a launch range of up to 8 km or the PL-7 and PL-9 with a range of up to 15 km are designed to combat the air enemy. In total, 16 TY-90 missiles or 4 PL-7 / PL-9 missiles can be suspended on a combat helicopter.
The Z-10 helicopter is armed with a mobile artillery mount with a 23 mm cannon (23x115 mm ammunition). According to Chinese data, the horizontal aiming angle is 130 °. However, the Chinese military was not satisfied with the power of the 23-mm projectile, and a turret with a Russian 30-mm 2A72 cannon was tested on a combat helicopter. But the optoelectronic systems installed in the nose of the fuselage turned out to be too "delicate", and due to the strong recoil when firing from a powerful 30-mm cannon, failures became more frequent. In this regard, it was decided to install on the Z-10 a 25 mm cannon (ammunition 25 × 137 mm), created on the basis of the American M242 Bushmaster. This chain-driven weapon with dual ammunition is considered to be quite reliable. The M791 armor-piercing tracer projectile weighing 185 g with a tungsten alloy core is capable of penetrating 40 mm armor along the normal at a distance of 1000 m. An analogue of the American 25-mm cannon and ammunition are mass-produced in the PRC. The 25-mm cannon, for example, is armed with a Type 89 (YW-307) tracked infantry fighting vehicle.
According to World Air Forces 2016, the PLA Army Aviation had 96 Z-10 combat helicopters in the second half of 2016. In addition, it was announced that the Z-10, along with the transport-assault Z-8 (SA 321 Super Frelon), can become part of the air groups based on the Type 071 universal amphibious assault ships and be used for fire support of the landing. Earlier, a special naval modification of the combat helicopter was tested on the first Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
In 2017, it was reported that the Z-10 helicopter enters the army in massive quantities and is already being equipped with the third helicopter brigade of the army aviation. Beginning in 2010, military trials of the Z-10 took place at the 5th Helicopter Brigade, based in Nanjing.
The second military unit, which received Z-10 helicopters in 2012, was the 8th Helicopter Brigade of the 38th Army of the Beijing Military District, stationed at Baoding Air Base, Hebei Province. Since 2014, the personnel of the 7th Helicopter Brigade of the 26th Army of the Jinan Military District in Liaochen, Shandong Province have been retraining for attack helicopters.
In addition to deliveries to the PLA, the CAIC aircraft building corporation offers Z-10 for export, the export cost of the helicopter, depending on the composition of avionics and weapons, is $ 25-27 million, which roughly corresponds to the export modification of the Mi-28NE and is more than half the price of the AN-64D … It is known that several Chinese combat helicopters were purchased by Pakistan for comparative tests with the Russian Mi-35M and the "Turkish" T-129 ATAK.
It is very difficult to evaluate the new Chinese combat helicopter, since it has just begun to enter the troops, has not been studied enough by the flight and technical personnel, and has many "childhood ailments". The development of new technology, due to the great complexity and lack of experience in operating combat helicopters equipped with modern avionics in the PRC, may be delayed. The commissioning of new helicopter technology is often accompanied by a high accident rate. So it was in the United States and in our country, the Europeans managed to avoid significant losses due to accidents and disasters with their Mongoose and Tiger, but this is due to the very low rates of helicopter entry into combat squadrons and a long period of refinement and development.
Information about flight accidents involving Z-10 appears periodically. So, on March 4, 2017, a Chinese attack helicopter crashed in the central province of Shaanxi, and the crew was injured. Since 2010, it has been known about five accidents and disasters that happened to the Z-10.
Currently, a new modification of the Chinese combat helicopter is being created with an engine capable of providing up to 1800 hp on takeoff. With the same geometric dimensions, the maximum take-off weight of the modified Z-10 can reach 10,000 kg. That is, it will come close on this indicator to the "Apache". Apparently, the carrying capacity reserve will be used to increase security, combat load and the volume of fuel tanks.
As mentioned in the previous part of the review, in the PRC, on the basis of the French Dauphin 2 helicopter, a transport-combat Z-9W was created, equipped with an aiming search system and an HJ-8E ATGM and its night modification Z-9WA with a night vision system, a laser rangefinder- target designator and ATGM HJ-9 with laser guidance. Simultaneously with the creation of the "large" Z-10 attack helicopter in China, they decided to play it safe, and despite the dispute with the EADS corporation regarding the expiration of the license for production in the PRC, SA 365 Dauphin 2 began to create a reconnaissance and attack helicopter on its basis.
Compared to the poorly protected Z-9W, the new two-seater specialized vehicle is better suited for aerial reconnaissance and ground strikes. At the same time, the risk of failure, compared with the Z-10 created from scratch, was much less. The rejection of the passenger cabin while maintaining the previous flight data and maximum take-off weight made it possible to improve the security and the number of weapons on board. With the same power plant, the new helicopter has become shorter by about 1.5 m. Unlike the Z-9, the reconnaissance and attack helicopter has a narrower fuselage and a tandem cockpit.
The Z-19 helicopter, named "Black Tornado", was created by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC). Its first flight took place in May 2010. Since the Z-19 largely used the well-mastered components and assemblies of the Z-9 helicopter and avionics, already tested on the first prototypes of the Z-10, the tests went very quickly. Despite the fact that the prototype Z-19 was destroyed in September 2010, in the first half of 2011, tests of the pre-production vehicles began. A few months later, the first Z-19s entered the 5th Squadron of the 8th Helicopter Brigade of the 38th Army of the Beijing Military District. Around the same time, the personnel of this unit, stationed in the vicinity of the city of Baoding, in parallel began to master the Z-10 combat helicopters.
Thanks to the fenestron tail rotor and a number of noise reduction measures, the Z-19's acoustic signature is much lower than that of many other combat helicopters. In addition, thermal and radar signature is reduced compared to the Z-9.
On the "chin", where other attack helicopters usually have movable machine-gun turrets, a movable ball is mounted with an optoelectronic sighting and search and night vision equipment, as well as a laser rangefinder-designator. To counter all kinds of threats, the attack reconnaissance helicopter is equipped with sensors and defensive systems similar to those used on the Z-10.
The Z-19 helicopter can use a wide range of weapons, including a laser-guided ATGM, NAR blocks and suspended machine-gun and cannon containers. The weight of the combat load on the external nodes was not officially announced, but according to expert estimates, it can reach 700-800 kg.
The Z-19 appears to be no better than the larger and heavier Z-10. It can be assumed that the cockpit and the most important parts of the helicopter can withstand the shelling of rifle caliber bullets.
The flight data of the Z-19 is roughly on par with the armed version of the Z-9. A helicopter with a maximum takeoff weight of 4500 kg, with full fuel tanks, is capable of staying in the air for 4 hours. During this time, he can fly about 800 km. The maximum flight speed is 280 km / h. Cruising - 240 km / h. The power plant consists of two WZ-8C turboshaft engines with a capacity of 940 hp.
At the Heli-Expo exhibition, a Z-19E helicopter with HJ-10 ATGM mock-ups, an NAR unit and a suspended machine-gun container was demonstrated. This modification is intended for export supplies. According to data announced in the Chinese media, several cars were ordered by Sudan. The light combat helicopter Z-19E, at a cost of about $ 15 million, may be of interest to third world countries that are financially constrained or cannot purchase modern combat helicopters in the West due to sanctions restrictions.
Currently, the Chinese armed forces have delivered approximately 90 light reconnaissance and attack helicopters Z-19. They are often sent to mixed helicopter crews, where Z-10s are also operated.
Recently, images of the Z-19 have appeared from a millimeter-wave over-sleeve radar. The same radar station is intended for installation on Z-10 combat helicopters. With a high degree of confidence, it can be assumed that the Z-19 helicopter equipment will include various suspended containers with reconnaissance equipment, as well as possibly a light SW-6 UAV.
An interesting feature of this drone is the use of a DC electric motor connected to a two-blade propeller and powered by a battery as a power plant. The device is disposable, its evacuation and reuse is not provided. According to data released during the 2016 Airshow China aerospace show, the maximum take-off weight of the SW6 is 20 kg. Payload weight up to 5 kg. The maximum speed is up to 100 km / h. The capacity of the rechargeable batteries allows you to stay in the air for about 1 hour.
A small-sized unmanned vehicle in the transport position with its wing folded takes up the minimum possible volume and can be transported on the external sling of a helicopter. After the release, the wings of the drone unfold, and he proceeds to the solution of the task. The SW6 modification demonstrated in China is equipped with optical-electronic equipment designed for visual reconnaissance. In addition, in the case of a jammer, a UAV can serve as a decoy target in conditions of strong air defense, and when a warhead is installed, it can act as a loitering high-precision ammunition.
At Airshow China 2016, the SW-6 "electric" UAV was demonstrated in conjunction with the Changhe Z-11WB light reconnaissance helicopter. In China, this model of the helicopter was given the designation "Buzzard".
Representatives of the aircraft building corporation Changhe Aircraft Industries claim that this rotorcraft was created by Chinese specialists on their own. However, back in the second half of the 80s, documentation for the licensed production of the Eurocopter AS.350 Ecureuil (Russian Belka) helicopter was sent to the PRC. The production of "Belka" began in 1977 and continues to this day. This highly successful light helicopter was popular with consumers. Depending on the configuration, its cost in the 90s was $ 2, 5-3 million. A total of about 3,500 Ecureyes were built; in a number of third world countries, modifications armed with ATGM TOW or NOT, NAR and machine-gun and cannon containers are used.
The first flight of the Chinese "Ecuray" took place in 1998, and two years later began mass production. Initially, when assembling light Z-11 helicopters, the French Turbomeca Arriel 2B engines with a capacity of 847 hp were installed. But later they were replaced by the Chinese equivalent of the WZ-8D.
At first, the unarmed Z-11 helicopter was used as a "flying ambulance" to deliver urgent mail and VIPs. Since the Chinese army was in dire need of reconnaissance helicopters, observation and adjustment of artillery fire, devices of artillery observers and radio stations were mounted on several vehicles for communication with ground units.
In 2005, an armed modification of the Z-11W appeared with an aiming and observation system above the cockpit and four HJ-8 ATGMs on external pylons. Instead of guided missiles, six-barreled 7, 62-mm machine guns CS / LM12, 40-mm automatic grenade launchers LG3 or blocks with 57-mm NAR could be suspended. The total weight of the payload can reach 500 kg. It is believed that the armed Z-11Ws were mainly supplied to the aviation support units of the special operations forces. The helicopter with a maximum takeoff weight of 2200 kg can accommodate two pilots and three paratroopers. In the variant of fire support, an additional fuel tank with a capacity of 225 liters can be installed in the passenger compartment. The main tank holds 540 liters of kerosene. Without the use of an additional fuel tank, the flight range is 580 km. The maximum flight speed is 278 km / h. Cruising - 220 kmph. In general, the flight data of the Chinese Z-11W is very close to the characteristics of the American OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance and attack helicopter of later modifications.
A further development of the Z-11W was the Z-11WB, equipped with a movable thermal imaging camera and a laser rangefinder-designator. It is stated that this vehicle is capable of carrying a wide range of weapons: missiles with laser, thermal and television guidance, small-sized guided bombs FT-9 and YZ-212D, air-to-air missile system TY-90 and various machine gun and cannon containers. The machine is designed to counter terrorism, drug trafficking and special operations. The export value of a light attack helicopter capable of conducting combat operations at night, equipped with modern optoelectronic equipment and modern weapons systems, does not exceed $ 9 million, which makes it attractive on the foreign arms market. It should be admitted that in the creation of light attack helicopters for reconnaissance, target designation and support for special forces, Chinese specialists have advanced much further than Russian designers. Obviously, the key to success in this case is the ability to quickly develop and create advanced all-day surveillance and targeting systems, coupled with high-precision weapons.