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Chinese helicopters with high-altitude capability achieve milestones

China's AC313A helicopter conducted its maiden flight on 17 May. With improved engines and high-altitude performance, this helicopter, which is an upgraded version of the Z-8 helicopters in PLA service, is likely to also be used by the Chinese military. (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Two of China's domestically manufactured helicopters with high-altitude capabilities have achieved significant developmental milestones, according to state-owned media.

The Chinese national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on 15 May that a Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) Z-20 helicopter airlifted an 8Ă—8 Lynx all-terrain vehicle during exercises. The helicopter was attached to an aerial assault brigade of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) 83rd Group Army.

According to the state-owned Global Times newspaper, this demonstration shows the helicopter's ability to “transport a wide variety of vehicles” on a sling load. This could include artillery pieces, air-defense missile platforms, munitions carriers, and unmanned vehicles.

The newspaper added that the exercise demonstrates the capabilities of the Z-20's domestically built turboshaft engines as well as its fly-by-wire flight control system to handle complicated loads.

Although no images of the slinging operation were made public, the helicopter is likely the assault variant, commonly known as the Z-20J. The sling operation suggests that the Z-20 can support the air transport operations of heavier helicopters in the PLA, such as the 13-ton Z-8L and the Mi-171 helicopters.

The CCTV report added that the aerial assault brigade will continue to “practise this method of transportation, including nighttime training and emergency management”.

Janes reported earlier that the 10-ton Z-20 is powered by two 1,790 kW turboshaft engines. This is likely to provide the aircraft with enough power to enable it to operate at high altitudes.

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