Photos: Mystery Helicopter UAV Spotted as China's New Type 075 Carrier Returns From Maiden Voyage
20:05 GMT 24.08.2020
Photos posted on social media of the Type 075 amphibious assault ship's return to Shanghai at the end of its maiden voyage revealed some of the first clear images of a new model of unmanned helicopter sitting on the dock, which may become part of the ship's air wing.
On Sunday, the Type 075 landing helicopter dock (LHD), a Chinese helicopter carrier capable of disembarking amphibious landing craft and troops, returned to Shanghai from its maiden voyage. However, amid the photos and videos of its arrival are a rare and clear image of an unmanned helicopter not previously glimpsed in such detail.
A vertical lift UAV, left, is spotted on the docks at Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai next to mockups of two helicopters used for fitting out the Type 075 amphibious assault ship
The photo was posted on the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo, and seems to show three different unmanned helicopters. The two on the left have previously been spotted at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard docks near the Type 075, but never in such clarity.
At left is the mystery vertical lift unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). At middle and right in the image are mockups of a Z-8 heavy-lift chopper, a license-built version of the French Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon, and a Z-20 multi-role helicopter, which would be used as stand-ins on the ship to test all the functions that will one day concern real helicopters, such as elevators, hangars and the like.
What's interesting is how nobody seems to know anything about this mystery drone. It isn't an unmanned version of any known Chinese helicopter, and the vertical lift UAVs seen thus far are smaller and do not match the profile of that spotted in Shanghai. According to French outlet East Pendulum, the dimensions of the drone can be extrapolated from its size compared to the Z-8: it is roughly between 8.23 and 9.55 meters long and about 2.5 meters high.
Meanwhile, the Type 075, which will one day likely deploy the mystery drone alongside its manned helicopters, finished its first sea trials, which lasted some four weeks. The military analysis account Detresfa on Twitter posted a map on Monday showing the zigzag path the Type 075 cut across the East China Sea during its 19-day voyage.
Because the warship is the first of its class and the first amphibious assault ship Beijing has ever built, extra time will undoubtedly be needed to figure out all of its quirks and problems. However, that hasn't slowed the pace of construction of subsequent ships: the second Type 075 was recently launched from the dry dock and sits beside the first LHD in Shanghai, while the third ship in the class is under construction nearby.
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