WZ-XX / WZ-20 attack helicopter
China is reported to be working on a heavy (10 tons WZ-20?) attack helicopter. It would presumably be the attack counterpart of the Z-20 10-ton Helicopter which first flew in 2013 [teh Blackhawk "with Chinese characteristics"]. This would be comparable to the 10,000 kg MTOW AH-64E, or the 10,900 kg MTOW Mi-28 HAVOC [there are no other countris with helicopters in this weight class].
The primary attributes of the attack helicopter include its tactical agility (e.g., speed, horizon masking, and engagement geometry), assortment of weaponry, and its ability to engage multiple targets. Its primary limitations are (1) a relatively limited sortie time (e.g., about 2 hours) and (2) that it is not particularly stealthy; that is, it has substantial radar, infrared, visual and audible signatures.
Helicopters are typically configured to perform specific roles such as troop transportation, cargo transportation, assault, medical evacuation, surveillance, AWAC, rescue, firefighting, construction, etc. Military helicopters are often designed with interior accessories to accommodate passengers and/or cargo. Various attachments are available to mount weapons, equipment, hoists, etc.
It would be desirable for one common parent vehicle comprising the rotors, engines, fuel and aircraft systems to mate with a family of various aircraft cabins configured for specific roles and missions. The nature of helicopter mechanical mechanisms and operations creates considerable vibration. These vibrations cause fatigue in the aircraft structural components and systems. Furthermore, these vibrations are uncomfortable for the occupants and may contribute to pilot fatigue and performance.
With respect to helicopters, machine guns have been mounted within cabin areas, on window sills, and on external store supports. For example, it is known to mount M240 7.62 mm machine guns on adjustable linkages supported by gunner's windows on UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters. It is also know to mount GAU-18 .50 caliber machine guns outside of gunner's windows on UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters.
Whereas previously when faced especially with surprise air-attacks against single vehicles and smaller vehicle groupings, without advanced immediate air and ground defences, it was virtually necessary to direct the fastest and largest possible armed forces against an attacker with the best infantry weapons available, and thus more or less applied the shotgun principle. The risk for surprise air attacks have not only considerably increased with the introduction of the attack helicopter but so has the effect of such attacks.
Dating back to the 1980s, China sought to develop a military attack helicopter. Beginning in the 1990s, after the US Congress had imposed the prohibition on exports to China, China sought to develop its attack helicopter under the guise of a civilian medium helicopter program in order to secure Western assistance. The 5,540 kg empty weight / 8,000 kg MTOW Z-10, developed with assistance from Western suppliers, was China’s first modern military attack helicopter.
The maximum take-off weight of 4.5 tons almost immediately clarifies the WZ-19's combat capabilities. For comparison, the normal takeoff weight of a Mi-28N attack chopper, whose active use in tandem with Ka-52 Alligators in Syria was studied by foreign specialists, was nearly 11 tons. The armor on the Mi-28N's hull allows it to withstand high-explosive fragmentation projectiles with a 20 mm caliber, while the main rotor blades continue to operate even when struck by 30 mm shells and frag explosives.
China still does not have a heavy attack helicopter, with the Z-10 attack helicopter being of only medium weight, nor does China possess a domestically developed heavy transport helicopter, with one still being jointly developed with Russia. As the new helicopter will have a completely new aerodynamic design, it is difficult to predict its capabilities now, since the project is a self-funded one and the helicopter is still a prototype, it will likely still take some time for it to become mature.
In terms of Wuzhi, China has light-duty Zhi-11WB, Zhi-19 radar type and medium-sized Zhi-10, etc., showing the initial successful establishment of Wuzhi system, but heavy Wuzhi is still a conspicuous lack. It is generally believed that the Italian A-129 "Mongoose" belongs to the light military straight, the French and German "Tiger" type belongs to the medium military straight, and the American AH-64 "Apache" belongs to the heavy military straight. That is to say, the empty weight of the light Wuzhi is about 2.5 tons, and the maximum take-off weight is about 4.5 tons; the empty weight of the medium-sized Wuzhi is about 3 tons, and the maximum take-off weight is about 6 tons; the empty weight of the heavy Wuzhi is more than 5 tons. The maximum take-off weight is more than 10 tons. In fact, the "Tiger" type is medium-sized and light, and the dismounted RAH-66 "Comanche" is more in line with the "real" medium-sized Wuzhi, with an empty weight of about 4 tons and a maximum take-off weight of about 8 tons.
Lightweight Wuzhi is light, small and flexible, but its armor is thin and its firepower is not strong enough. In theory, it may be possible to take off with a lot of weapons, but this is at the cost of the amount of fuel in the aircraft, and the battery life will be greatly reduced. In practice, light weapons are more suitable for reconnaissance and patrolling. Only when the situation is favorable or time is tight, they will be shot directly.
The heavy-duty Wuzhi is the opposite, with thick armor, powerful firepower, fast speed, and long range, suitable for taking on heavy punching missions. But as a reconnaissance, patrol a bit bulky, and overkill. Ideally, it should be combined with light and heavy, and each uses its strengths. If the national strength is insufficient and the demand is limited, there are also all-heavy routes, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Medium Wuzhi is of course somewhere between light and heavy. In an ideal situation, the cost is close to light and the performance is close to heavy; in fact, cost and performance go hand in hand, and it is even possible that the cost is close to heavy due to the limitation of take-off weight and excessive expectations for performance, but the performance is actually not far from heavy. small distance. Another problem with the mid-sized Wuzhi is yield. Countries that use medium-sized weapons are generally of medium power and cannot afford a combination of weight and weight. If they try to use medium-sized weapons to take care of both ends, the output will inevitably be limited, which will further distort the cost-performance relationship. The "tiger" style in Germany and France has this meaning.
The empty weight of the Z-19 is 2.4 tons, and the maximum take-off weight is 4.3 tons; the empty weight of the Z-10 is 5.1 tons, the normal take-off weight is 7 tons, and the maximum take-off weight is unknown, say 8 tons. If the empty weight represents the frame, then the maximum takeoff weight represents the capacity. The increase in maximum take-off weight means that the fuel capacity and the ability to carry weapons are increased, and the combat effectiveness is stronger. According to the empty weight, the Z-10 is slightly heavier than the AH-64E "Apache", which can be considered heavy. However, according to the maximum take-off weight, if the maximum take-off weight of the Z-10 is indeed 8 tons, it is significantly lower than that of the "Apache". In fact, the fuel and weapons that can be carried are comparable to those of the European "Tiger". People often refer to the straight-10 as the reason for the medium-sized Wuzhi.
The Zhi-10 achieves the combat effectiveness of the medium-sized Wuzhi with the heavy-duty Wuzhi frame, which is due to the insufficient engine power of the Zhi-10. The original design used Pratt & Whitney Canada's PT6C-67C engine with a maximum continuous power of 1142 kW. Due to the obstruction of the United States, the mass production model switched to the domestically produced turboshaft-9, but the power was reduced to 1,000 kilowatts, and the maximum take-off weight was correspondingly reduced. In contrast, the "Tiger" MTR390 engine has a maximum continuous power of 960 kilowatts, which is not higher than that of the turboshaft-9, but the maximum take-off weight is 25% lighter. The maximum continuous power of the T700-701D of the American AH-64E "Apache" is as high as 1279 kW (1486 kW emergency power in 10 minutes). It is no wonder that the maximum take-off weight is significantly higher than that of the straight-10.
Aviation engines have always been China's weak point. The lack of aero-engines with high power, light weight and high reliability has repeatedly dragged down China's aviation industry, and the turboshaft used in helicopters is no exception. The WS-10 represents a new generation of China Aviation Engine. Although it is still a third-generation engine, it adopts a large number of fourth-generation technologies and has great upgrade potential. Turboshaft engines, also known as free turbine engines, are different from turbofans, but the core technologies have a lot in common. With the advancement of China's design and manufacturing technology and the accumulation of experience, the increased power of the vortex shaft-9 and its development can be expected. If it is increased to 1100-1200 kilowatts, the bomb load and maximum take-off weight of the Z-10 can be quite close to the "Apache", at least the early version. Russia and Ukraine may also offer the TV3-117 series or the more advanced VK-2500, but the size, weight and power levels may be greater than the Z-10 needs.
The vortex-9 modification plan is unknown to the outside world, but the vortex-10 may also be an option. This has been installed on the Z-20, and it has been shown as a "1600 kW turboshaft engine" at the 2016 Zhuhai Air Show. The straight-20/vortex-10 combination has already been flown on the plateau. The turboshaft-10 is technically closer to the GE T700, and even more powerful. If the straight-10 is installed, not only the power will be greatly increased, but it will also be shared with the straight-20. The benefits are obvious.
The vortex-16 may be another option. This is a 50:50 cooperation between China and France Turbomeca. According to the French public information, the power reaches 1200-1500 kilowatts. Even if this refers to emergency power that can only be used for a short period of time, it is equivalent to the level of General Electric T700-701D. It would be even better if this was the maximum continuous power.
Switching to a more powerful engine is important for the Z-10. It is said that the empty weight of the Z-10 was originally 5.5 tons instead of 5.1 tons. The weight reduction is a forced result of adapting to the insufficient power of the vortex-9. The main reduction is the armor, and there may be some equipment that can be shrunk or reluctantly discarded. Such as 30mm cannon to 23mm cannon. After the engine power meets the requirements, the armor and equipment can be put back, and the fuel and weapons carried can be increased, so that the Z-10 will really take off. Furthermore, China has very unique requirements for plateau use in the world, and the S-70 is particularly appealing to China, one of the reasons is that it is equipped with an engine with increased horsepower. More power is very important to the plateau performance of the straight-10.
At the other end, the Z-19 is based on the power and machinery of the Z-9, but the body is redesigned and changed to a narrow body that meets the requirements of the Wu Zhi. China has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing and using the localized Zhi-9. The reliability and maturity of the power and machinery of the Zhi-19 are guaranteed, which is different from the newly designed Zhi-10. When the number of Z-10s is insufficient, Z-19s can also be used as the main force for a while, but this is after all a "reconnaissance attack helicopter", just like the RAH-66 "Comanche" that the United States has dismounted. , should not really be used as the main force. In the information-based battlefield, situational awareness is the most important, but the means of attack is not the biggest problem. With the addition of a masthead radar, the Z-19 can covertly "peep" behind trees or buildings to guide strikes.
The Z-19 has less power problems, but the turboshaft-8 was introduced together with the Z-9 in the 1980s, and it is time to upgrade and update with more advanced technology. Coincidentally, the basic technology of Turboshaft-8 also came from Turbomeca. The agreement of that year stipulated that China has the right to continue to introduce subsequent upgrades of Turbomeca. The advanced technology of Turboshaft-16 can also be penetrated "downward" for use China's self-improvement. The Z-9 and Z-19 with more powerful engines are self-evident for plateau use and heavy-duty take-off at tropical seas.
After the Z-10 is heavy, there is no need for China to continue to develop heavier Wuzhi. The Mi-28 is heavier than the Apache, with an empty weight of nearly 8 tons and a maximum takeoff weight of nearly 12 tons. Greater maximum takeoff weight means greater fuel and ammunition capacity, as well as thicker armor. Wu Zhi is known as a flying tank, but this is a description. It is wrong to use Wu Zhi as a flying main battle tank. It should be said that the comprehensive balance of firepower, maneuvering and protection of Wuzhi is closer to that of light tanks, and its armor is mainly to resist infantry light weapons and common small-caliber anti-aircraft guns, not the concept of main battle tank-level armor protection. Wu Zhi relies on maneuvering and situational awareness to defeat powerful opponents. The level of armor should meet the protection needs in encounters, rather than the basic positioning of fist-to-fist recklessness. In the modern battlefield where tanks and artillery can fight the military and the individual anti-aircraft missiles are cabbage, it is the wrong way to continue to increase the armor to improve the survivability. It is necessary to restore the armor protection level of Z-10, and excessive reinforcement is not necessary.
The same goes for greater firepower. Wu Zhi is only a member of the modern battlefield strike system, not isolated from long-range artillery, rocket launchers, drones, and tactical aircraft. Everything has a degree. For China, in the foreseeable future, the heavy weapons of the AH-64E class are sufficient, and the heavier weapons are not necessary.
In terms of light military straight, the straight-19 is well positioned, its capabilities meet the needs, and it also has sufficient development potential. The lighter and smaller Z-11 costs less, and the two-seat side-by-side also has the advantages of being convenient for pilots to maneuver and observers to scan the battlefield, but the wide front is vulnerable to blows, and it is not easy to apply armor protection.
After the "Comanche" was dismounted, the United States tried to replace it with an ARH-70 with similar properties to the OH-58D, and it dismounted; then tried again with AAS, and now the Bell 360 and Sikorsky "Marauder X" compete , while the OF-58F (an upgraded version of the OH-58D) will be available until at least 2036. No way, the U.S. Army's replacement plan is derailed. The anti-strike and survivability of the Z-19 is significantly higher than that of the Z-11. The higher power level also facilitates the installation of more electronic equipment and improves the level of situational awareness.
Wu Zhi with the ability to transport troops like the Mi-24/35 is another matter. This is the result of the alternative thinking of Wu Zhi in the Soviet era, and the relationship with Wu Zhi in the West is equivalent to fighting on foot against tanks. Tank assaults lacking the cooperation of armored infantry are easily killed by infantry anti-tank firepower, which is a lesson from many war experiences.
But what the ideal foot fight looks like has been debated. The Russian BMP-3 is equipped with a 100mm long-barreled gun, Israel directly uses the "Merkava" tank to refit the infantry, and the United States is indecisive about the replacement of the M2 "Bradley". In general, the level of armor protection in infantry is lower than that of main battle tanks, but with more troops, infantry should provide a higher level of armor protection, but this will result in unacceptable weight. The protection paradox of infantry warfare has always been a problem that cannot be avoided by the design of infantry warfare, and the heavy armed transport helicopters equivalent to flying infantry warfare also have the same problem.
The Mi-24 designed in accordance with the flying infantry has the problems of large target and heavy weight, with an empty weight of 8.5 tons and a maximum take-off weight of 12 tons. This is the inevitable result of adding armor to a large body. In order to maintain the necessary high speed, the rotor diameter is relatively reduced, resulting in a 50% increase in the rotor disk load (which can be simply referred to as disk load, which is conceptually equivalent to the wing load of a fixed-wing aircraft) compared to the mechanically homologous Mi-8. The high temperature conditions of the high plateau in Afghanistan show the problem of easy entry into the vortex ring, which makes it impossible to land quickly in actual combat and increases the exposure time to enemy fire. In addition, if it is fully loaded with soldiers and ammunition, the weight is too large and the performance is seriously degraded. In fact, it can only be selected between fully loaded fuel and ammunition or fully loaded with soldiers.
China's top helicopter makers announced that a new type of helicopter with an innovative design has successfully completed its maiden flight, and this prototype chopper will lead to the development of the next-generation, high-performance helicopter for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). The new helicopter, which might have a completely different aerodynamic design compared with most current ones, could feature a higher speed, better stealth capabilities or a larger takeoff weight, Chinese analysts said.
In order to break the limits of the conventional aerodynamic design, enhance performance and combat capabilities, push forward technological innovations and optimize the industrial development modes, the Changhe Aircraft Industry (Group) Corporation Ltd and the China Helicopter Research and Development Institute, both based in Jingdezhen, East China's Jiangxi Province as subsidiaries of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), launched a self-funded project to develop a new helicopter platform in March 2019. The project was reviewed in March 2022 in a routine joint work conference conducted by the two subsidiaries, the institute said in a press release on its WeChat account on 03 April 2022.
The new helicopter has successfully completed its first flight and is conducting more test flights to verify its performance, according to the press release. It will lay down a solid foundation for the upcoming development of the next-generation, high-performance helicopter for the PLA, the press release said. It noted that through the project, the two AVIC subsidiaries have resolved many technical problems in advance, and is promoting the approval of a national project for the continued development of the new helicopter.
The press release did not give further details on the new helicopter, including how its design is different from the conventional one or its intended missions, like whether the new helicopter is an attack helicopter, a reconnaissance helicopter or a transport helicopter. In line with the trend of technology development in the world, a new helicopter in demand could feature characteristics like a higher speed, better stealth capabilities or a larger takeoff weight.
The US' SB>1 Defiant helicopter demonstrator is designed with a rigid coaxial rotor system and a pusher propeller in an attempt to achieve higher speeds than current helicopters while maintaining low-speed handling qualities. The US' V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a hybrid of a helicopter and a turboprop aircraft, is also an attempt to achieve similar functionalities. The US reportedly deployed a stealth-capable variant of the Black Hawk helicopter during the raid in Pakistan on Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
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