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Z-20 prototype seen carrying possible anti-tank guided missiles

Images have emerged on Chinese social media platforms showing what appear to be a new prototype or variant of the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) Z-20 multirole helicopter carrying anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and other stores.

The images, which were released on 20 October via Weibo, show the rotorcraft carrying what appear to be eight KD-10 ATGMs and additional rocket pods mounted on stub wings that are similar in appearance to the US-made External Store Support System.

The helicopter was shown bearing what seemed to be a three-digit serial number, but the number was pixelated in all photographs. All known Z-20 prototypes bear three-digit serial numbers.

No information was provided as to when or where the images were taken.

Although images emerged in December 2020 of a Z-20 variant undergoing test flights while carrying KD-9/10 ATGMs and fitted with fuel tanks under the stub wings, the latest helicopter is speculated to be a modified prototype or a dedicated assault variant of the Z-20.

The aircraft shown in the recently published images also features upgraded engine exhaust outlets pointing upwards – instead of the previous outward/sideways configuration – in an apparent effort to reduce the helicopter's infrared signature as seen from the ground. Additionally, the prototype was shown fitted with larger electro-optical sensors on top and possibly also underneath the nose for targeting and navigation.

If confirmed, this latest prototype would be the second Z-20 variant being developed for the People's Liberation Army Aviation Corps.

An assault/utility variant – commonly referred to as the Z-20J – and an anti-submarine warfare-capable version of the helicopter referred to as the Z-20F are being developed for the People's Liberation Army Naval Aviation Force (PLANAF).

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