China has hinted that its Harbin Z-20 helicopter, which is considered a clone of the US H-60/S-70 Black Hawk, will be deployed in attack missions as the latest image shows the aircraft carrying KD-10 air-to-ground missiles.
Built by the Chinese aerospace and defense company, Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG), the Z-20 is a medium-lift utility helicopter, which has been subject to scrutiny regarding its design similarities to the US-made Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Named after the Native American war leader Black Hawk, the UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-blade, twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of the US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.
After a thorough evaluation, the US military selected the design of the Black Hawk in 1976. The Black Hawk’s civilian variant, the Sikorsky S-70C-2, has been used by the People’s Liberation Army since 1984.
The Chinese Z-20
Having first flown in 2013, the Chinese Z-20 has a maximum takeoff weight in the range of 10 tons (22,000 lb) and can operate from locations above 13,000 ft in altitude as well as from the Liaoning aircraft carrier, which was the PLA Navy’s first commissioned carrier.
Since its first flight, the Z-20 has proved its mettle as a powerful helicopter. While it is often compared to the US’ Black Hawk design, it is different from the US-made helicopter in certain ways.
These include their differences in the cockpit area, changes to Z-20’s tail configuration, and its rotor design. While the Black Hawk has four rotors, the Z-20 has five rotors, and it now seems that the Chinese helicopter is also installed with a satellite communications array.
In addition, while the Black Hawk multirole helicopter has been in use by the US military and the armed forces of 28 other nations across the world, the Z-20 is exclusively used by China.
According to the website of American aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, over 4,000 Black Hawk aircraft of all types are in service globally, with the US Army being the largest operator with around 2,135 H-60 aircraft ints fleet.
The picture of Harbin Z-20 carrying KD-10 air-to-ground missiles originated from a Chinese micro-blogging site called Weibo. The helicopter appears to be carrying at least eight KD-10 missiles — each of the stub-wings loaded with four missiles.
Specifically developed for the Z-10 attack helicopters, the KD-10 is a new-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).
The missiles are broadly considered to be in the same class as the AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and make use of semi-active laser guidance while having a range of around four miles.
As compared to the KD-9 missiles which are lighter and smaller, the KD-10 missiles are heavier and bigger in size.
There is speculation that an MMW (millimeter wave) seeker is currently being developed for KD-9/KD-10, coupled with the new mast-mounted MMW radar, which is being tested on the Harbin Z-19 light reconnaissance/attack helicopter.
The missile is 1,775mm in length, with a weight of around 46kgs and an armor penetration of 1,400mm.
It’s not clear if these are dummy missiles or live rounds.