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Update: Footage suggests PLA's Xinjiang Military Command operating Z-20 helicopters

The People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF) Xinjiang Military Command continues modernising its aerial assets, with footage from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) suggesting that the command may also be operating the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) Z-20 medium-lift tactical helicopter.

Published on the Weibo social media platform in early February, the video shows at least two Z-20s conducting what appears to be a joint training mission with a Z-8G transport and several Z-10 attack helicopters assigned to the 84th Army Aviation Brigade in Wujiaqu, Xinjiang, which is under the PLA’s Western Theatre Command.

Given that the serial numbers on the Z-20s are not visible in the footage, it remains unclear whether the multirole helicopter, which is very similar in appearance to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, has been officially assigned to the brigade, but the apparent joint training exercise suggests this may be the case. The 84th Army Aviation Brigade is also known to operate Z-19, Z-9WA, Mi-171E, Mi-17V-5, and Mi-17V-7 rotorcraft.

At least one of the Z-20s seen in the footage has been fitted with new 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.

Such an outlet configuration designed to channel hot exhaust gases upwards may have been incorporated into newly built Z-10s but it is also possible that it was carried out during depot-level maintenance work. It is unclear how many units of this new variant are in service and whether any other modifications have been incorporated into the platform.

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