Attack Helicopters, MALE UAV Debut at Airshow China

 - November 16, 2012, 3:25 PM
Three J-10 fighters from China’s premier jet aerobatic team take off to display during Airshow China at Zhuhai this week. The Z-10 attack helicopter made its airshow debut during the show. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Two Chinese attack helicopters made their airshow debut during Airshow China at Zhuhai this week. A Z-10 from the Changhe Aircraft Industries Group made a daily flying appearance in its latest configuration. The smaller Z-19 from Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing was shown in public for the first time, flying on the opening trade day only, but scheduled to fly again on one of the public days. Both are tandem-seat, stepped-cockpit designs that resemble Western counterparts, with nose-mounted optronics and guns, and stub wings for missiles and/or gun and rocket pods. The Z-10 is in the AH-64 Apache class, and the Z-19 is in the A129 Mangusta class. Neither carried armament on the stub wings, and neither was put on static display to allow a close-up view.

The Wing Loong MALE UAV from Chengdu was on the static display, complete with its ground control station. This Predator-class machine has previously also been billed as the Yi Long or Pterodactyl. It is said to have a 20-hour endurance, and was shown at Zhuhai with three different small precision-guided munitions (PGMs). These included the Blue Arrow (BA-7) missiles that are also thought to be the primary weapon on the Z-10.

Inside the halls, a model of a larger MALE UAV designated CH-4 was shown, with a radome for a spinning antenna beneath the mid-fuselage, as well as a sensor ball slightly farther forward. The CH-4 has four wing hardpoints compared with two on the Wing Loong, and can be considered a Reaper-class machine.

A model of the J-31 stealth combat aircraft that recently flew for the first time was also on view, labeled as “an advanced multi-role fighter for the international defense market.” Other defense highlights from the show included a range of air defense hardware and models of a high-wing UAV series from China Aerospace Science and Industry; three new high-speed helicopter concepts displayed in model form by Aviation Industry Corp of China (Avic); and two new PGMs.

Hongdu Aviation Industry “sold” 15 of its L-15 advanced jet trainers to China National Aero-Technology Import and Export (Catic). Twelve of these will be exported early next year to an undisclosed country. Catic said that teams from several air arms were visiting Hongdu to evaluate the L-15. Details of the latest Chinese developments in military turbofan engines were given at the show, including one intended for the L-15, although deliveries continue from the Ukraine of the Progress AL222-25F engines that currently power the L-15.