New ar­mor ma­te­rial boosts at­tack chop­per’s ca­pa­bil­ity

Global Times US Edition - - CHINA - By Liu Xuanzun

The Chi­nese Z-10 at­tack he­li­copter is now equipped with ex­tra ar­mor in­volv­ing graphene, a ma­te­rial that is strong and light, a Chi­nese mil­i­tary ex­pert said on Wed­nes­day af­ter the State broad­caster fea­tured the he­li­copter.

Video re­leased by China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion last week showed the Z-10 land­ing in an air­field. Ex­tra ar­mor mod­ules could be seen on the side of the he­li­copter near the cock­pit.

Chi­nese heli­copters, in­clud- ing the Z-10, did not have ex­tra ar­mor be­cause their en­gines could only lift a cer­tain weight, Wei Dongxu, a Bei­jing-based mil­i­tary an­a­lyst, told the Global Times on Wed­nes­day, not­ing that the choice was made so that the Z-10 could carry a suf­fi­cient pay­load.

The ex­tra ar­mor shown in the broad­cast is likely made of graphene, which is strong and light, and would solve the weight prob­lem, Wei said.

Chi­nese re­searchers at the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Aero­nau­ti­cal Ma­te­ri­als de­vel­oped gra- phene ma­te­ri­als that can be used for mak­ing ar­mor and bul­let vests, chi­ re­ported in 2016.

It said that graphene is about 200 times stronger than steel, can stretch an ex­tra 20 per­cent, and weighs only 0.77 gram a cu­bic me­ter.

At­tack heli­copters like the Z-10 often fly low to at­tack ground tar­gets, mak­ing them vul­ner­a­ble to anti-air­craft fire, Wei said.

The ex­tra ar­mor can ef­fec­tively pro­tect key parts of the he­li­copter, like the cock­pit and the fuel tank, from be­ing di­rectly hit, thus greatly ex­pand­ing the air­craft’s chance of sur­vival, he said.

Wei said he ex­pects graphene-based ar­mor to be masspro­duced and to also be used on other air­craft, not­ing its high ef­fi­ciency and low cost.

Z-10ME, a mod­i­fied and ex­port ver­sion for Z-10, is ready for busi­ness, Chi­nese mil­i­tary an­a­lysts said.

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