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Image suggests new widebody variant of CAIG Z-8G helo is in PLAGF service

An image has emerged on Chinese online forums suggesting that the new widebody variant of the Changhe Aircraft Industries Group (CAIG) Z-8G medium-lift transport helicopter is now officially in service with the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF).

Published on 12 May, the image shows an example of the latest Z-8 variant, which is being commonly referred to as the Z-8L, flying at an undisclosed location while bearing a serial number beginning with the letters ‘LH’: an indication that the rotorcraft is in service. That said, the rest of the serial number has been pixelated, so it is unclear which PLAGF unit this helicopter has been assigned to.

The latest development comes after commercial satellite imagery captured on 26 May 2020 showed six Z-8Ls at the Xinxiang helicopter base in China, which is home to the PLAGF’s 161st Air Assault Brigade.

The Z-8Ls, which at the time were seen parked on the Xinxiang ramp adjacent to Z-8Gs, are identifiable in the imagery owing to their sponsons, which are significantly larger than those on other Z-8 variants.

Examination of older imagery showed that the six Z-8Ls had arrived at the base between December 2019 and March 2020.

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