Z-8L Large Helicopter
Attack helicopters take thinness for beauty, while transport helicopters take fatness for beauty. For a long time, large helicopters had been a shortcoming, whether in China's army aviation or navy. Before the birth of the "Advanced Heavy Helicopter" (AHL) promoted by China and Russia, the long-rumored Z-8 wide-body helicopter was the latest, largest and strongest transport helicopter. In the entire Type 075 weapon configuration, there was a lack of a key subsystem, which is the main transport helicopter. It is true that both Zhi 8, Zhi 9, Zhi 20, or Ka 27 and Ka 28 had certain personnel transportation capabilities to perform "leapfrog" combat missions. Among them, Zhi 20 has strong transportation capabilities, but they transport basically light infantry. In modern landing operations, the survivability of light infantry is not high, and they need to be given heavier firepower, light armor and mechanization, and this task is handed over to the Z-8L.
On February 5, 2018, the official WeChat account of the Aviation Industry Helicopter Institute released a news feature "Miracle Always Persevering", revealing the news of the first flight of a new type of helicopter in China in 2017. Combining this article with several other publicity reports published by the aviation industry earlier in 2017, it can be inferred that the new type of helicopter mentioned in the article is likely to be a new generation of wide-body transport helicopter developed on the basis of the Zhi-8. It may replace the Russian-made Mi-17 series transport helicopters currently heavily equipped by the PLA Army and become a new mount for Chinese air cavalry units.
The new Chinese helicopter weighs approximately the same as the 33,000-pound U.S. Army CH-47 helicopter, a workhorse transport plane in service since the 1960s. In August 2020, it was suddenly "officially announced" inadvertently. The domestic weapons testing department released a piece of news, "There are pictures and the truth." The article pointed out that a test flight team based in Jiangxi cooperated with a team based in Ning to carry out the "Lynx" all-terrain vehicle helicopter loading and hoisting test in the context of actual combat. The 8-wide helicopter, called the Z-8L, is also the most improved model in the Z-8 family.
Previously, the outside world had believed that the Z-8L was equivalent to the Chinese version of the CH-54 "Super Stallion" helicopter, but from the exposed pictures, it is more similar to the Chinese version of S-92, which is equivalent to EH101 and NH90. The S-92 is a new generation of medium-sized transport helicopter jointly developed by Sikorsky Aircraft Company and Jingdezhen Changfei. The other half of the Z-8L may be born here.
From the appearance, this Z-8 wide-body helicopter prototype in the final test stage has great changes from the previous Z-8, including the Z-8G based on the AC313 platform. The width of the internal floor of the fuselage has been increased from 1.83 meters to 2.40 meters . The cabin can carry the "Lynx" and the Zhi-18 can only be transported. (Mi-171 is 2.20 meters, NH-92, AW-101 is 2.40 meters)
Compared with the previous Z-8 and Z-18, the shape of the Z-8L has undergone tremendous changes. Specifically, its nose has changed to the style of "Super Hornets" and Z-8, which is somewhat similar to the combination of Z-20 and Mi-171, while the fuselage is obviously elongated, and the portholes are also changed from the traditional round shape to a larger area. The horizontal tail is surprisingly large.
The most obvious change is the large sponson with a large fuel tank integrated with the rear (main) landing gear on the side of the fuselage, which is similar in appearance to the Sikorsky S-92. In this way, the built-in fuel tank of the Z-8 family's ancestral cabin can be eliminated. The Z-8L wide body appropriately reduces the height of the fuselage. In the LHD shioboard hangar, such modifications are necessary. The belly fuel tank of the original Zhiba was changed to an external fuselage and integrated with the wheel well. In this way, the fuselage floor (cabin door) can be lowered, making it easier for passengers to enter and exit when the aircraft is descending. At the same time, the small slope of the rear floor of the cabin is flattened, and the length of the usable floor is increased.
The Z-8 wide body widens the fuselage, and the side also has angles similar to the NH-90. The two 13-ton GTOW transport helicopters of China's Army Aviation Force, Z-8 and Mi-17, both have built-in fuel tanks to increase their range. Although the design is relatively simple and can be disassembled, the biggest problem is that it cannot accommodate a large number of "Lynx" all-terrain vehicles equipped by China's army. This kind of small vehicle has strong terrain adaptability, whether it is for border patrols or assault operations. A variety of weapons, even 40mm countersunk assault guns and 107mm rocket launchers, greatly improved the mobility and fire support capabilities of the infantry unit.
The Z-8L wide-body type will definitely be improved into a ship-based type in the future. The Type 075 amphibious assault ship is designed to carry 20-30 helicopters. In addition to a small number of Z-10 or Z-19 armed helicopters, carrier-based transport helicopters will be the main force. Compared with the current Z-8C helicopters, the increase in the carrying capacity of the Z-8-wide body is unprecedented. When the marines after boarding the Bobcats perform the "over the horizon" vertical landing mission, the combat capability is also greatly improved.
The "Lynx" high-mobility vehicle family made a collective appearance at the Zhuhai Air Show in 2018. It has developed a wide variety of models on the same chassis, such as rocket launchers, mortars, anti-tank vehicles and anti-aircraft missile vehicles. In general, the tracked all-terrain site is used to replace the iron feet of the "leapfrog" unit, which greatly enhances firepower, mobility and load-bearing capacity. This configuration, even if it encounters Taiwan's M60 "Brave Tiger" tank, it can win in one fell swoop, and this is the meaning of Z-8L. It is conceivable that the Z-8L that will take off from the 075 in the future, carrying special forces and "Lynx" high-mobility vehicles, will go deep behind the beachhead, and land on the city streets. It will seize key nodes with the mechanized paratroopers and bring them to the enemy.
Judging from the information disclosed by the aviation industry helicopter, the Z-8 wide body will be further improved, the model is called AC313A. In terms of appearance, AC313A adopts a new engine layout. Although the straight-8 wide body is quite different from SA321 "Super Hornets" in appearance, the three turboshaft engines are still "front 1 rear 2", and power is lost. AC313A was replaced with a "front 2 rear 1" similar to EH101, and a brand new turboshaft engine was also installed, probably a straight-20 turboshaft 10, instead of turboshaft 8C or Pratt & Whitney PT6. Compared with AC313, The commercial load capacity on the plateau has been increased by 40%, and the operating time has been increased by up to 200% when the external load is 5 tons.
The engine is changed to WZ-10A , the power is increased from 1300KW of WZ-6C to 1750KW , the improved version will reach 2000KW, and the total weight will reach 15-18 tons. The Zhi-20 mainly transports personnel and the wide-body Zhi-8 mainly transports equipment. The Z-8L design installs a variety of interference and warning equipment to strengthen air defense capabilities in enemy-occupied areas.
Although the straight 8L that was publicly exposed this time is only a test prototype, in fact, it was previously reported that it has been in service in 2020 and the number of equipped troops is still quite large. The development of the Zhi 8L has created a record of "designed, trial-produced, and first flight that year". Like Wuzheng 8, it is a "how fast and easy to save" model, but the changes in combat methods it brings have a profound impact.
The flexibility of helicopters is not only reflected in the use, but also has unlimited potential in improving the layout of equipment and functions according to needs. The helicopter is suitable for multiple fields, and the military and civilian can be mixed, which is more cost-effective. The widening (wide-body) improvement also shows that this model is thoroughly understood. In the future, the main forces of the army and navy transport helicopters are the Z-20 and Z-8L. The Z-18 is only an excessive product, and will gradually retreat to the second-line army or armed police fire rescue departments.
Spearheading the aerial performance formations at the event marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in Beijing on 01 July 2021, a Z-8L flew past the Tiananmen Square hanging a CPC flag, with two Z-10 attack helicopters flying in the same formation. Four more Z-8Ls followed in a second formation. This is the first time the Z-8L made a public flight performance. Before this, the helicopter was caught on camera by aviation photographers and was briefly featured in a media report in 2020.
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