Z-8 Helicopter (Super Frelon)
The Z-8 heavy helicopter was designed after the French SA-321 Super Frelon [Frelon = Hornet] helicopter. SA321 was developed by the French national aerospace industry company in the early 1960s, and by 1980 it had ceased production and produced a total of 105 aircraft. The Zhi-8 series has now evolved into a variety of modifications, becoming an important type of helicopter in China, with a total output of nearly 150 aircraft, and the new model has been reborn and transformed into a third-generation helicopter.
The MAI decided that the trial production of the Z-8 would be undertaken by the Jiangxi Helicopter Factory [the present day (Changhe Aircraft Factory]. The Z-8JH is a SAR and MEDAVAC variant used in hospital ships. The Z-8J variant is used by the Chinese Navy (PLAN) as embaked helicopter for antisubmarine (ASW) and search and rescue (SAR) missions. For the first one fitted with a surface search radar and a dipping sonar (French built) carrying a Italian Whitehead A244S torpedo under the starboard side of the fuselage.
The Z-8 was powered by three engines which drove a six metal blades main rotor and a five metal blades tail rotor. Its fuselage was of a water-proof all-metal semi-monocoque structure. Maximum takeoff weight was 13,000 kg. It could be used for transportation, search and rescue, air early warning, anti-submarine and mine sweeping.
The Chinese Navy used Super Frelons for antisubmarine missions and equipped them with sensors, torpedoes, and antiship missiles. The Chinese Navy received 12 Super Hornet helicopters from France in 1977 and named them Z-8. These include both simple-equipped transport models and very important anti-submarine models. Especially the latter, not only equipped with supporting original French hanging sonar, but also can launch white-headed anti-submarine torpedoes imported from Italy. For the Chinese Navy, which lacked effective anti-submarine methods, this was the best way to counter the Soviet submarine threat. The Z-8 is also the first naval helicopter of the Chinese Navy, and has been in use today for its excellent performance. During the Marine Corps' vertical landing and resupply training, the load-carrying nature of the Z-8 was also revealed.
Since 2002, with an estimated annual production rate of at least 12 helicopters, a larger number of the marine version Z-8JA / JH have been built each year, which are apparently used in particular for transport tasks , among others, for landing companies and for submarine defense. By the time of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, the Army Aviation had been equipped with dozens of such excellent helicopters of French descent. Due to their outstanding performance in disaster relief operations, the Armed Police Force and the Forest Fire Department also allocated funds for the purchase. Therefore, the production of this type of helicopter continued to 2012.
In 2004, the emergence of the Z-8F was of iconic significance. In August 2004, a Z-8F helicopter successfully made its first flight. It could adapt to the varied complex climate conditions, such as, the high temperature and high altitude; what's more, the reliability, the affordability, the comfort and the airworthiness have been improved tremendously. The machine was refitted with the imported Pratt & Whitney PT6B-67A engine. This model was developed by Pratt & Whitney for the Zhiba. The maximum power was 30% higher than that of the domestic scroll shaft 6. It is 100 kg lighter. The avionics system has also been replaced with an advanced integrated display avionics system. Composite rotors and advanced airfoil layouts have also been used to replace the original rectangular metal blades. The lift coefficient is increased by 20% compared to the straight eight, the climb rate, and the hover ceiling. Both have been greatly improved and can be used in plateau areas.
In addition, photos of a machine appeared in Chinese Internet forums in 2009, which may be equipped with a folding and rotating radar system mounted on the rear (Z-8 AEW) and could be suitable for AEW tasks and for battlefield observation. The maximum achievable service summit height is important for AEW missions, since the range of the radar detection increases correspondingly from great heights (curvature of the earth).
The medium shipboard helicopter that has a top speed of 134 nautical miles per hour and a range of 440 nautical miles. It can carry 27 fully armed troops or 39 unequipped troops. The Z-8 is a multi-mission helicopter which can be used for transportation, patroling, EMS, and the like. The max take-off weight is 13 ton metric level. With the side-mounted floats, the helicopter can land and take-off on water. In recent years, Z-8 helicopter have been modified gradually by the enterprise.
The Z-8 helicopter can be used for extensive applications. It is the ideal civil aviation aircraft due to its spacious and comfortable cabin design; it could be used to serve the all around sectors of national economy with the mission equipment installed, such as, geological survey, aerial mapping, construction, forest fire protection, and power line erection etc. Furthermore, in the plateau area, it can be used for those missions, including frontier patrol, transportation, communication, liaison, commanding, as well as the emergency medical service.
The Z-8 helicopter is powered by three engines, with main rotor system as well as tail rotor. It has large power reserve at condition of sea level ISA. The fuselage is of watertight semi-monocoque structure with boat-hull inside its bottom. The helicopter can take off, land and float on water in an emergency with the installed amphibious nosewheel undercarriage and the floats attached to small stub-wing. The Z-8 helicopter, equipped with dual control system and complete flight instrument with autopilot, can be piloted by 2~3 aircrew. The cabin, equipped with ventilating, heating, soundproof and vibration proof systems, is spacious and comfortable.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Z-8 experienced a renaissance. At that time, the Chinese Navy was in dire need of medium-sized transport helicopters that could carry marines and loads between ships and coasts, and the size of which allowed them to land on ships. After another renovation, the Z-8 helicopter was put into service by the Navy. Above all, the chassis had been strengthened and a foldable rotor had been installed to take account of the narrow space on a ship.
In 2013, the updated Z-18 medium-sized helicopters were shipped out. With the new engine, its takeoff weight was greater than the original Z-8.
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