Army gets ad­vanced, new com­bat he­li­copters

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chop­pers de­signed for anti-tank mis­sions, now also have air-to-air fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity

The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army has equipped all of its ground force avi­a­tion units with ad­vanced WZ-10 com­bat he­li­copters, ac­cord­ing to PLA me­dia.

Sev­eral WZ-10s have been de­liv­ered to an avi­a­tion bri­gade of the PLA 13th Group Army un­der the Western Theater Com­mand, the mil­i­tary’s TV news chan­nel re­ported.

This means that all of the Army’s avi­a­tion units now have this ad­vanced at­tack he­li­copter, the re­port said.

The de­liv­er­ies also marked the 30th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of the Army’s avi­a­tion force and opened a new chap­ter in the force’s de­vel­op­ment, it added.

The Army’s avi­a­tion wing was formed in Oc­to­ber 1986 with a reg­i­ment equipped with a com­bi­na­tion of do­mes­ti­cally man­u­fac­tured he­li­copters with old tech­nolo­gies and a few im­ported ad­vanced ones.

For more than two decades, the back­bone of the PLA’s at­tack he­li­copter teams was formed by the WZ-9, which was de­vel­oped based on the French Euro­copter Dol­phin. The Army did not have a ded­i­cated com­bat he­li­copter un­til 2011, when the first WZ-10s were be­lieved to have en­tered ser­vice with the PLA.

Se­nior Colonel Xu Guolin, deputy chief of thePLAArmy’s Avi­a­tion Equip­ment Bu­reau, told the news chan­nel all of the group armies will have at least one avi­a­tion bri­gade or reg­i­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to a mil­i­tary white pa­per re­leased in 2013, the PLA Army had 18 group armies at the time, but it is un­clear if some of these have been merged or dis­banded dur­ing troop cuts in­tro­duced at the start of this year.

The WZ-10 is de­vel­oped and pro­duced by Changhe Air­craft In­dus­tries Group, a sub­sidiary of Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China, the coun­try’s lead­ing air­craft man­u­fac­turer. It made its pub­lic de­but in Novem­ber 2012 at the 9th China In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion and Aerospace Ex­hi­bi­tion, also known as the Zhuhai Air Show.

Avi­a­tion in­dus­try sources said the he­li­copter was de­signed pri­mar­ily for an­ti­tank mis­sions, but now has a sec­ondary air-to-air com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity.

Wu Xim­ing, chief de­signer of the he­li­copter at Changhe Air­craft In­dus­tries, said the WZ-10 has su­pe­rior ma­neu­ver­abil­ity and com­bat com­pat­i­bil­ity com­pared with the WZ9, al­though it is a lit­tle bit weaker in terms of en­gine ca­pac­ity, am­mu­ni­tion-car­ry­ing abil­ity and fire­power.

Wu Peixin, an avi­a­tion an­a­lyst in Beijing, said the PLA Armynowhas a strong force of ded­i­cated com­bat he­li­copters thanks to the ser­vice of the WZ-10 and WZ-19, an­other at­tack he­li­copter that is less pow­er­ful than the WZ-10.

“The Army now needs more medium-lift, mul­ti­pur­pose he­li­copters such as the US Army’s Siko­rsky UH-60 Black Hawk,” he said. “This he­li­copter is ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing both com­bat op­er­a­tions and trans­port tasks.”

Gao Zhuo, a mil­i­tary ob­server in Shang­hai, said the PLA Army needs at least 3,000 he­li­copters, es­pe­cially heavy-lift trans­port types and mul­ti­pur­pose mod­els.

Western de­fense pub­li­ca­tions spec­u­late that the PLA Army’s avi­a­tion force has nearly 1,000 he­li­copters.

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