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Z-20 10-ton Helicopter - Variants

Due to its excellent versatility, the famous Black Hawk helicopter has derived from the basic assault transport type special operations type, electronic combat type, search and rescue type, medical rescue type, shipborne anti-submarine type, shipborne transportation and many other models. Based on the same platform, the logistics burden has been greatly reduced, and the convenience of maintenance has been improved.

The Z-20 will be able to be deployed aboard any air-capable frigate, destroyer, amphibious assault ship or aircraft carrier and handle patrol, reconnaissance, rescue, supply and anti-submarine mission. "Judging from information available now, the Z-20 will mainly be used as a transport vehicle, but because it is designed to be capable of serving multiple purposes, it can be refitted to conduct attack, early-warning, refueling or anti-submarine missions," Chen Hong, a researcher at the PLA Air Force Command Institute in Beijing, told Beijing News.

As the Chinese Navy's first high-performance 10-ton general-purpose helicopter, the arrival of the Z-20F brought "endless dawn" to the vigorously developing Chinese Navy. So far, the basic Z-20 has been tested by ships. In the future, the Chinese navy may derive at least 3 models based on the basic Z-20.

Since the development of the Z-20 became known to the public, analysts have been predicting that it can spawn many different variations for vessel-based transport, search and rescue, medical support and special operations, among others. The Z-20 will see wide applications similar to the US? UH-60 Black Hawk series, Wang Yanan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times 07 January 2021. Its flexibility will allow the Z-20 to conduct different missions more efficiently and significantly lower mass production costs, analysts said. Deng Jinghui, the chief designer at the China Helicopter Research and Development Institute of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, said on China Central Television in November 2019 that he hopes the Z-20 would become the most-delivered type of helicopter in the country and remain in service for a long time.

Z-20 anti-submarine variant

Z-20FFirst of all, the anti-submarine version of the Straight 20 is urgently needed now. Most of the Chinese Navy's active anti-submarine helicopters are 4 ton Z-9. Although the large-capacity Ka-27 has a high load, its anti-submarine equipment is already very backward. Moreover, the number of Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopters is small, and it is difficult to meet demand, and it cannot be the main force in charge.

Under such circumstances, the Chinese navy's long-term lack of anti-submarine aviation capabilities is naturally self-evident. According to the current situation, a single ship of the 055 destroyer can carry two Z-20 helicopters, and the 075 amphibious assault ship can carry 8 and mix and carry other types of helicopters for combat.

The light gray-painted chopper flying in a coastal region was seen in a photo released by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) South China Sea Fleet in a statement introducing the fleet's recent exercises on 06 January 2021. Beside the color difference from the original Z-20's dark green camouflage, the variation has a round, down-facing radar dome under its nose, and its rear landing gear is not equipped under the end of the tail but at the end of the cabin, the photo shows. Military observers said this Z-20 is a vessel-based, anti-submarine warfare variation. While netizens had taken photos of the variation, this is the first time for it to be featured in an official statement, they said.

The ship-borne anti-submarine type is often equipped with foldable weapon mounting short wings, which can mount sonar buoys, torpedoes, anti-submarine depth bombs, anti-ship missiles and other weapons. There is a large cylindrical radar fairing under the nose for large-scale search of the sea surface. There are light airborne anti-submarine torpedo pylons on both sides of the fuselage, there should be dangling sonar storage and release ports under the fuselage, and there are densely packed sonar buoys on the side of the fuselage.

Z-20 mine clearance variant

Of course, the anti-submarine version of the Z-20 is just an appetizer, the mine clearance version and the multi-purpose version of the Z-20 are also worth looking forward to. Taking the mine-clearing version of the Zhi-20 as an example, carrying a large number of detection and mine-clearing equipment can quickly open a safe passage in the sea area, so that the fleet is protected from attacks from smart mines.

Sea mines are explosive charges used in water against vessels and submarines. Sea mines are regularly utilized for blocking an area of sea. To protect seagoing vessels or convoys of seagoing vessels from the dangers of mines, mine-free routes are created in order to steer the vessels through a mine-free route. When hunting for mines, individual mines are located and later deactivated or detonated deliberately.

In wartime, underwater mines are commonly encountered at invasion beaches and harbor entrances or in shipping lanes. The mines are placed at relatively shallow depths below the water in these locations to destroy ships or at least impede progress by requiring extensive operations to detect and remove the mines. The mines are designed to detect the presence of a ship and to detonate as the ship passes or contacts the mine.

In order to prepare some military operations, it may be necessary to clear marine areas that have previously been mined. To clear these areas, a first dredging is generally carried out followed by additional clearing to remove any mines that may remain after the first dredging. To carry out the additional clearing, it is necessary first of all to detect the mines that may be present, to identify their positions, to identify them, then to destroy them or at least to neutralize them.

To recognize the presence of mines and locate their positions can be used robots such as remote-controlled robots cable or automated underwater vehicles equipped with detection means, in particular acoustic detection, and means for determining precisely the positions of the robots, these means being in communication with an accompanying ship.

A minesweeping system that creates influence signatures generally must provide a large enough influence field to be effective while still minimizing the size and weight of the equipment to make the system practical from the standpoint of the platform which controls and/or tows the system. This platform may be a ship, a helicopter, a remote controlled vehicle operating above or below the water surface, or a slow moving aircraft. Minesweeping systems generally have therefore involved a trade-off of performance vis-a-vis size and weight.

Z-20 multi-purpose variant

As for the multi-purpose version of the Zhi 20, it is based on the basic frame, which strengthens the ability to resist sea fog and salt, and the hanger has been modified to fit machine gun pods, rockets, mines, anti-ship missiles and other weapons. This version of the Zhi 20 is generally used as a landing ship's delivery and fire support platform. In particular, support for special forces can play a vital role.

However, as of 2022, the test progress of Zhi 20 had still not reached the ideal state of netizens. Today, the number of 055 destroyers has exceeded 10, and more than 6 052D destroyers have been exposed. According to future demand for the Zhi20, in the next three years, the production quantity of each model of the Zhi20 must reach 123 or more, as now there are eight 071 landing vessels.

China's latest vessel-borne helicopter will take the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's combat capability to a new level, Chinese military experts said on 03 July 2019 after a full-sized model of the navy variant of the Z-20 utility helicopter was allegedly spotted testing on a warship for the first time. Citing a photo that surfaced on Chinese social media, Weapon magazine reported, via its social media account, that the Z-20 navy variant was on board a Chinese destroyer and its characteristic appearance made it clearly identifiable.

Generally the same helicopter as the army version, the vessel-based navy version can additionally minimize its size in the hangar through design features like foldable rotor blades, judging from the photo. It might also feature extra anti-corrosion capabilities and stronger landing gear, said Weapon magazine affiliated with the state-owned China North Industries Group Corporation, a major manufacturer of Chinese military equipment and weapons.

Having a full-sized model on board for testing means the PLA is studying the practical adaptability of the Z-20 on ships, testing for things such as how the helicopter would enter and exit the hanger and how much space it would actually take up, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Compared to other in-service shipboard helicopters, the Z-20 has a good takeoff weight (while remaining not oversized on ships) and can better adapt to situations at seas, Li said.

Often compared to the US' UH-60 Black Hawk, hence nickname "Copyhawk", the Z-20 is a 10 ton-class medium-lift utility helicopter that can adapt to different terrain and weather. It would have the capabilities to fly on destroyers, amphibious landing docks, amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers, undertaking a wide range of tasks including anti-submarine warfare, reconnaissance missions, transportation as well as search and rescue on the high seas, Li said, noting that the helicopter will play an important role in the multidimensional and digitalized battlefield. The Z-20 will help the Navy reach a higher level of effectiveness, Li noted.

Z-20 assault variant

The assault version was first caught on camera by Chinese military observers in 2021. Citing a photo on social media, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a defense magazine based in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, said in a report on 05 January 2021 that the armed Z-20 has a machine gun under its nose and additional short wings under cabin doors. The short wings are used to mount eight anti-tank missiles, four on each side, in the photo, but they should also be able to mount other weapons like rocket launchers, machine guns and air-to-air missiles, the magazine report said.

The modified Z-20 general-purpose helicopter was still a prototype for the development and test flight, indicating that the development of the weaponized improvement of the aircraft is still in progress. It was believed that in the near future, the Z-20 general-purpose helicopters currently in service in the PLA will adopt this design one after another, bringing the air-to-ground strike capability of the army aviation and air assault troops to a new level.

In the history of helicopter development in the world, the world's military powers have had many successful examples of converting general-purpose helicopters or multi-purpose helicopters into armed helicopters to perform ground attack missions. In fact, before the appearance of the world's first dedicated armed helicopter, the AH-1 "Cobra", the U.S. Army installed simple pylons on both sides of the cockpit of the UH-1 light multi-purpose helicopter, which can mount 70mm rockets, 7.62mm machine gun, 40mm automatic grenade launcher and 30mm cannon and other weapons.

China tried the "armed" modification of general-purpose helicopters as early as the 1960s. In 1964, my country's Z-5 medium-sized multi-purpose helicopter, which was imitated by the Soviet Mi-4, began to be delivered to the army, and a variety of improved models were successively developed. Among them, there is a Z-5 general-purpose armed helicopter developed with reference to the Mi-4 armed type design. On the basis of the Z-5 basic transport helicopter, the aircraft is equipped with airborne weapons such as machine guns and rocket launch nests - a fixed 7.62mm machine gun pod is installed in the belly, and each side of the fuselage crew compartment is A simple pylon can be installed, which can mount a rocket launch nest.

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.

From the perspective of many original designs, helicopters such as the "Black Hawk" and the Z-20 are inherently suitable for conversion into armed helicopters. First of all, the design of the "Black Hawk" helicopter has a porthole separated from the large side door of the cabin, and the shooting field is wide, and it does not need to occupy the position of personnel getting on and off the plane, which is very convenient and reasonable. There are two main porthole machine guns most commonly used by the US military on the "Black Hawk". One is the famous M134D "Minigun" 7.62mm 6-barrel Gatling machine gun with a rate of fire of up to 3,000 rounds per minute. The other is a 12.7mm M3M aircraft machine gun with a rate of fire of about 1000 rounds per minute.

In addition to the ferocious firepower of the fixed machine gun, the additional mount weapon capability of the "Black Hawk" is also first-class. The "Black Hawk" helicopter can be equipped with an External Suspension Support System (ESSS) on the main landing gear strut. This short wing can be used to mount a variety of loads, up to the "Hellfire" missile, 1705 liters large auxiliary fuel tank, down to the fire Snake-70 rockets, cannon pods, it can be mounted.

At the maximum load, the ESSS short wing can carry up to 16 "Hellfire" missiles or two 1705-liter auxiliary fuel tanks and two 872-liter auxiliary fuel tanks at the same time. The addition of ESSS short wings to mount weapons such as cannon pods, missiles, rockets and other weapons has a firepower comparable to that of heavy armed helicopters. Compared with the short wings of any armed helicopter, the mounting capacity of the ESSS short wings is definitely not low. The only downside is that this ESSS short wing cannot carry air-to-air missiles and cannot replicate the full functionality of a gunship.

The armed, aerial refueling-capable variant of China's Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter is believed to be currently under development after the aircraft's maker revealed concept art for such a chopper. The state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the maker of most aircraft used by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), released a promotional video titled "In the blue sky" on January 31 on social media platforms, in which the company rounded up the achievements it made in 2021.

The title screen of the video displays the three "20" series aircraft developed by AVIC, namely the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the Y-20 large transport aircraft and the Z-20 helicopter, in computer-generated imagery. While the computer-generated art for the J-20 and the Y-20 seem identical to their real-life counterparts, the Z-20 looks significantly different to the ones in service with the PLA Army today, as it has a pair of short wings, each carrying four missiles and a multiple rocket launcher.

This makes this Z-20 likely an armed assault variant, as the current version of the Z-20 is a utility version for mainly transport missions, and does not have the wings or the weapons. Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a defense magazine based in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, reported in January 2021 that the armed variant of the Z-20 was already under development at that time, citing a photo that circulated on social media.

In addition, the new Z-20 variant seems to have a long lance-like pole to the right of its nose, according to the latest AVIC video. This pole is likely a refueling probe that allows the chopper to receive aerial refueling. Just before AVIC released the video, Deng Jinghui, chief designer of the helicopter, said in an interview with China Central Television, the state broadcaster, in early January that he was considering extending the range of the Z-20 in the form of aerial refueling, since the helicopter's range is limited compared with a fixed-wing aircraft.

Z-20 People’s Armed Police (PAP) variant

The Z-20, China’s latest domestically developed tactical utility helicopter, is now in service with the Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP) Force, together with the larger, plateau-operable Z-8G transport helicopter, and this will enhance the mobility and flexibility of the armed police in tasks including anti-terrorist, disaster relief and emergency rescue missions. A detachment affiliated with the second mobile corps of the PAP organized multiple realistic combat-oriented drills featuring combat sorties and formation flights of helicopters, with the aim of honing the pilots’ skills and their capability in coordinated combat, the PAP announced in a statement in February 2022.

This is the first time the Z-20 helicopter has made an appearance in service with the PAP, following its public debut at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019 in Beijing in the colors of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army. The PAP version of the Z-20 looks very similar to the PLA Army version, but it is painted in olive green and with Chinese characters for “armed police”. It is not surprising to see the Z-20 in service with the PAP, since it is designed to be a 10 ton-class utility helicopter capable of carrying out different tasks.

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