China developing new attack helicopter with stealth power

The People's Liberation Army helicopters performing during an aerobatic display at the China Helicopter Exposition on Wednesday in Tianjin. New helicopters will be added to the fleet by 2020.
The People's Liberation Army helicopters performing during an aerobatic display at the China Helicopter Exposition on Wednesday in Tianjin. New helicopters will be added to the fleet by 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

Aircraft will 'reshape combat patterns' of country's ground forces, says manufacturer

BEIJING • China has begun developing a new generation of attack helicopter which will have stealth capabilities and should start deliveries to the Chinese armed forces by about 2020.

The helicopter is being developed by Aviation Industry Corp of China (Avic), one of the country's leading arms manufacturers, according to the official China Daily newspaper yesterday. It is the first time that China has confirmed it is developing a new-generation combat helicopter.

Its stealth capabilities will "reshape the combat patterns" of the People's Liberation Army, company chairman Lin Zuoming was quoted as saying. "It is a trend that the ground force will become increasingly dependent on helicopters because they have better strike capability and mobility than armoured vehicles, and transport supplies to frontier troops in a timely manner," Mr Lin said.

The company's chief helicopter designer Wu Ximing said the aircraft would have "supreme manoeuvrability in complicated environments, outstanding survivability and joint operation ability", the report said.

President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen and modernise the country's 2.3 million-strong armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in the region, particularly in the South China and East China seas. That has included developing a series of high-tech weapons, including stealth jets, aircraft carriers and emerging technology aimed at shooting down satellites.

In addition to the new combat helicopter, Avic is also working on a medium-lift utility helicopter, which made its debut flight in December 2013. Chinese designers are also working on the development of ultrafast helicopters that can achieve a speed of 700kmh.

China now has the second-generation WZ-9 and third-generation WZ-10 and WZ-19 in its combat helicopter fleet. Their major tasks are anti-tank warfare and air support missions for infantry troops, as well as air-to-air combat.

According to an article in China Aviation News, a newspaper owned by Avic, in May last year, Chinese helicopter engineers were developing a bearingless main rotor, a cutting-edge technology key to the fourth-generation helicopter.

The United States began to test the world's first fourth-generation attack helicopter, the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, in 1996. It cancelled the project in 2004 for reasons including technical specifications and budget cuts.

Russian media has previously said that Russia is researching designs for a fourth-generation combat helicopter expected to have a low radar signature, a long range, an ultrafast speed, low noise and the potential ability to confront fighter jets.

REUTERS, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'China developing new attack helicopter with stealth power'. Print Edition | Subscribe