Z-11 light military transport helicopter - Variants
There are several variants of the base Z-11 design. These include the Z-11J model modified for the rigors of military service. The Z-11W is an armed version designed for various roles including reconnaissance, suppression and MEDEVAC. The Z-11WA is a lighter scout platform. The Z-11MB1 features the Arriel 2B1A series engine from France. The Z-11W is a dedicated light-attack form carrying either Chinese or French engines. It carries the usual attack ordnance, including guided missiles, rocket pods and gun pods. The Z-11WB is an attack-reconnaissance platform with all-new cockpit, weapons stations and increased mission equipment.
Although the Zhi-11 helicopter is designed and built in China, it is generally very similar to the French "Squirrel" light helicopter. The corresponding domestic civilian version is the AC-313 light helicopter, which is mainly used for search and rescue, fire prevention, medical treatment and police tasks. The domestic Zhi-11 gunship can carry 57mm rocket pods, 4 Red Arrow-8 anti-tank missiles or similar missile weapons, and its positioning is similar to the international MD500 light helicopter. There are two different engines for the Zhi-11 gunship. The first is the domestically produced turboshaft-8D turboshaft engine, and the other is the French Turbomeca Akhye 2B1A engine.
The Zhi-11 helicopter is mainly used as the helicopter trainer of the aviation school in China, and the armed Zhi-11 has not seen large-scale equipment. This is because China’s Army Aviation already has the Z-9 armed to perform armed reconnaissance missions, and the large number of armed Z-11s have overlapping missions.
However, the export prospects of the aircraft are still relatively good, because the early legal "Small Gazelle" and other light armed helicopters have basically reached the retirement or upgrade age, and the Zhi-11E armed helicopter can fill the market gap in this regard.
In October 2019, the Z-11E, a made-for-export variant of the helicopter, received its first contract, as two of them were ordered by an African client. China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation and Changhe Aircraft Industry (Group) Corp under the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) signed a contract, involving the export of two Z-11E armed helicopters to Africa at the Fifth China Helicopter Exposition held in Tianjin.
The contract marked the first time this type of helicopter has been exported, and also the first time a product of AVIC's Changhe branch has been sold to Africa. Capable of carrying six people, machine guns, rockets and anti-tank missiles, the 2.2-ton Z-11E can conduct military and paramilitary missions including land attacks, support, reconnaissance and counter-terrorism. It features an advanced Chinese-made engine, has a high flight performance, is digitalized and easy to maintain.
It was not revealed which African country made the purchase.
The Z-11E gunship exported this time is a light gunship, nicknamed "Buzzard, a 2-ton standard helicopter. In addition to carrying machine gun pods, rocket pods and anti-tank missiles, it can also dismantle corresponding weapons. After being equipped, the flight with 6 members is relatively high for African countries with limited military expenditure.
From the appearance point of view, the appearance of the Z-11E gunship exported this time is quite different from that of the Z-11 gunship in the early years in China. The nose part has become more sleek and the pilot's observation field of vision has been further improved. The avionics originally installed in the nose of the aircraft are arranged in a spherical hoisting method, which reduces the impact on the pilot's observation field.
Designed as a military improvement over the AC-311, China’s Avicopter Z-11B made its first successful flight in September 2015. In November of 2010, Chinese state-owned manufacturer Avicopter unveiled the AC-311, a single-engine helicopter capable of carrying up to six people.
On 28 September 2015, the company conducted the first test-flight of its military version, the Z-11WB. Maintaining the high visibility of the AC-311, the new helicopter has modifications which allow it to "carry out ground support, attack, battlefield reconnaissance, command, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, counter-smuggling, and other tasks," according to Chinese reports. The Z-11WB was tested in Jingdezhen, in northeastern Jiangxi province.
Early images of the aircraft also suggest that the Z-11B will feature an electro-optical pod. If the new chopper is anything like the Z-11, a predecessor of the AC-311, then it will be powered by the WZ8D turboshaft engine. Chinese reports indicate that the helicopter will be ready for operations sometime in 2016. While the Army Aviation Corps of the People’s Liberation Army could be one major customer, it’s unclear whether other parties have expressed interest. In 2011, Argentina signed a deal with Avicopter to construct the Z-11, and there is no word on whether Buenos Aires will purchase the new aircraft.
China's domestically developed 2 ton-class Z-11WB armed helicopter was expected in early 2021 to enter service with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and play a key role in ground attack, reconnaissance and antiterrorism. A Z-11WB armed helicopter was seen painted with the insignia of the PLA on a production line in video footage released by Weihutang, a China Central Television program on military affairs in January 2021. This means this type of helicopter will likely enter PLA service soon, Weihutang said.
Having made its maiden flight in September 2015, the Z-11WB is a light helicopter capable of carrying armaments including anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers, machine guns and drones on pylons on each side of the fuselage, the report said, noting that compared with the Z-10 attack helicopter, the biggest characteristic of the Z-11WB is that the light chopper can carry multiple fully-armed commandos and send them into special operations. This makes the Z-11WB suitable for missions like ground attack, reconnaissance and antiterrorism, the report said.
The Z-11WB's small size, high mobility and varied applications means it can become an effective supplement to the PLA's current helicopters, and together they can form a complete armed helicopter system from 2 ton-class to 10 ton-class, Weihutang said.
Richard Fisher notes that "At the 2002 Zhuhai show Changhe revealed that it was developing an armed version of the Z-11, called the WZ-11 Combat Songshu. A twin-engine Z-11 is being developed with the help of Rolls Royce, that will be comparable to the AS-555 FENNEC. This may yet be the real basis for the WZ-11 as it would have more power. The WZ-11 employs a sight mounted on top the fuselage and has weapons pylons for either four guided anti-armor missiles or four unguided rocket pods. In late 2003 the PLA was reported to have built six of these WZ-11 Combat Songshu versions. The WZ-11 may turn out to be an important weapon in the PLA's ongoing preparations for a war over Taiwan. Cheap and relatively simple to produce, a large number of WZ-11s could inflict significant damage and provide much needed scout functions and initial air cover for invading PLA troops. This may prove to be a more important attack helicopter for the PLA than the indigenous WZ-10."
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