Despite the fact that in recent years the Chinese helicopter industry has made serious progress, the Chinese cannot yet escape from copying European and American helicopters. That’s the newest helicopter, the 20, is almost a hundred percent clone of the American UH-60 Black Hawk.
The history of this project is this: in 1984, the United States delivered to China 24 multirole helicopters Sikorsky S-70C, which were a civilian modification of the UH-60 Black Hawk. Of course, the Chinese immediately began to carefully study the helicopter – at that time the most modern that was at their disposal. To be more precise, the study was not only the design of the machine, but also the engines, avionics, in general, from this purchase the Chinese tried to squeeze to the maximum everything that could be used in their own helicopter industry.
In 2006, at the government level, it was decided to develop a 10-ton helicopter for the army and navy, and it is not surprising that the Sikorsky S-70C was the basis of the project. However, the Chinese did not copy it one-in-one, and made a number of improvements to the project. After all, the Black Hawk is already a very old helicopter and it needed a little further work to meet modern requirements.
The 20 was created by AVIC Helicopters, Harbin Aircraft and Changhe Aircraft. That is, the development of the helicopter was thrown very serious forces: almost all Chinese companies with experience in the construction of propeller-winged vehicles. The helicopter made its first flight on December 23, 2013, and until 2018, six pre-production samples were tested, after which it was decided to launch the z-20 into mass production.
Despite its obvious resemblance to the American prototype, the z-20 has a five-bladed propeller instead of a four-bladed UH-60, a modified front fuselage and a tail beam. Since after 1989 cooperation with China in the military-technical sphere was terminated by the Americans, the Celestial Empire did not supply modern technologies and dual-use products, which included gas turbine engines. However, the bans could not significantly slow down the development of the Chinese helicopter industry, as the Chinese in addition to the UH-60 Black Hawk copied the gas turbine engines Pratt and Whitney PT6B-67, which received the designation W–11. According to preliminary information, the z-20 is equipped with two such engines with a combined capacity of 4,290 hp.
The production of the z-20 is based in Harbin at the Harbin Aircraft Plant. Initially, the helicopter will enter service with the PLA, and in the near future should be presented its deck modification, which will be based on Chinese destroyers, aircraft carriers and other ships. In the U.S., the UH-60 Black Hawk is recognized as an obsolete helicopter, which will be decommissioned starting in 2030. And in China, his unlicensed fellow is just beginning his service. However, as far as helicopters, especially successful models, such a concept as “obsolete” is very relative. Suffice it to recall the workhorse of the Vietnam War UH-1, which is still in service in many countries of the world, and UH-60 surpasses it in all respects, and there is no doubt that this successful machine will be in operation in 30-40 years.
So, on the one hand, the PLA adopted a helicopter, so to speak, not the first freshness, hailing from the seventies of the last century, but on the other hand, many armies of the world can only dream of such a helicopter as UH-60. American “bird” is not cheap, and not every army is able to fork out for this helicopter. But the PLA and the Chinese Navy will receive it, and in large numbers. And most importantly – completely made of Chinese components. Moreover, it is possible that China will start exporting it and there is no doubt that the 20 will be offered at a more attractive price than the UH-60.
And the most important advantage is that Chinese helicopter builders today have such competences that allow them to build quite technically complex helicopters. Although not the last word of technology, but quite modern machines that suit the army and navy.