Gyrocopters operated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in China are once again the center of attention after CCTV, the country’s state-run media network, aired a video showing the first gyrocopter flown by the PLA outfitted with anti-tank missile launchers and a small sensor turret.
In 2014, a Chinese company began manufacturing gyrocopters for the PLA’s special forces. However, their affiliation with the Chinese military came to light after they took part in a parade in 2019 to commemorate the People’s Republic of China’s 70th anniversary.
The release date of the newly found video is unknown. The video depicts a two-seat gyrocopter outfitted with four anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), two on each of the aircraft’s underside hardpoint extensions.
The gyrocopter also looks to have a small sensor turret beneath its nose, which might be used to detect targets and guide missiles. The sensor may also provide general surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
The footage shows a fleet of unarmed gyrocopters executing training drills and stunts. Experts believe that including ATGMs and a sensor turret significantly improves weapon capabilities for the PLA’s gyrocopters.
The efficiency of these upgrades is currently unclear. Also, the sensor ball and ATGM tubes don’t precisely resemble high-end installations. However, these improvements demonstrate the Chinese military’s desire to modernize its non-conventional platforms.
A gyroplane or gyrocopter is a form of rotorcraft that generates lift through free autorotation of an unpowered rotor. An engine-driven propeller provides independent forward propulsion.
Despite looking somewhat like a helicopter rotor, the gyrocopter’s rotor requires air to travel across the rotor disc to generate rotation. The air flows upward through the rotor disc rather than downward.
In August 2014, the Shaanxi-based Shaanxi Baojii Special Vehicles Manufacturing Company started making its “Shaanxi Baojii Special Vehicles Lie Ying Falcon,” also known as the “Hunting Eagle Strike Gyrocopter,” for the PLA.
The “Hunting Eagle” is available in various layouts, including single-seat and multiple-seat versions. The business claims its two-manned gyrocopter can fly around 250 miles and carry a maximum gross weight of 1,235 pounds.
The unarmed gyrocopters in the most recent CCTV footage are probably very similar to those on exhibit in the parade in 2019. These aircraft can take off in seconds and land at highly steep angles in confined spaces.
They can be transported conveniently and are especially well-suited for covert surveillance missions of various kinds, border patrols, and search and rescue operations. They are challenging to spot due to their modest radar and thermal traces.
A rough translation of the video’s subtitles explains how the armed gyrocopters are meant to support ground soldiers and track down and destroy tanks. Additionally, steps have been taken to reduce the noise of the aircraft.
A noteworthy point is also made in the video about how simple it is to educate pilots to fly gyrocopters and how little of a logistical footprint they have, which is advantageous for different operations.
Possible Deployment Against India?
There have been reports of PLA gyrocopters engaged in military drills, most notably in Tibet in 2021. However, it is still unknown how the PLA would employ gyrocopters armed with ATGMs and sensor balls.
According to a Chinese military specialist, a three-seater version of this gyrocopter is feasible for plateau operations in areas like Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
“The Falcon is adept at infiltrating hostile areas during stealth reconnaissance missions due to its agility, small size, and low noise output,” the expert said.
Many military analysts believe these might be used along the Sino-Indian border to attack Indian tanks and other vehicles in case of a conflict.
Nevertheless, it is still uncertain how effective these gyrocopters would be in a live battle zone. Furthermore, if stationed along the Sino-Indian border, the aircraft might be exposed to air defenses, mobile units, and ground troops during a high-end fight.
This equipment is simple to use and maintain and may increase the Chinese military’s total capabilities. The aircraft will work as a moderately priced patrol and surveillance plane with infrequent light attack capabilities.