China's New Anti-Ship Choppers Pass Firing Tests
A new version of China's domestic Harbin Z-19 multirole reconnaissance/attack helicopter, the Z-19E, concluded its firing tests, state-owned developer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) said Wednesday.
"The Z-19E has shown its maneuverability and operational capability in the just-concluded firing flight test phase, which marks a major step for the export model into the market," AVIC said. The successful projectile tests follow the chopper's maiden flight in May 2017.
Foreign diplomats were invited to observe the Z-19Es as they made multiple test flights firing air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles in addition to rocket projectiles, according to People's Daily. AVIC hopes that the helicopters will draw overseas buyers; Chinese news agency Sina says Pakistan and Malaysia have an interest in them.
In the meantime, the Z-19Es are expected to help bolster the People's Liberation Army's sea assault abilities as tensions rise with Taiwan and in the larger South China Sea. Experts believe Taiwan could use an armada of small, high-speed missile gunboats to take down Chinese warships.
"The very agile anti-ship helicopters [Z-19E] could completely counter this scheme," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told China's Global Times.
The tests conclude amid a push in Washington this week to use Taiwan, among other countries in the South China Seas, to counter China with $7.5 billion over five years to be used to fund freedom-of-navigation operations, which Beijing has condemned, and provide more regular arms sales to Taiwan, among other activities. "We're trying to build a force that's appropriate to the longer-term challenges with China's military modernization program," Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said Tuesday.
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