China puts Z-18A heavylift helo through paces

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China puts Z-18A heavylift helo through paces


The Z-18 family of helicopters is derived from the 13.8-ton, three-engine CAIG AC313. Source: Via FYJS web page

A dedicated troop transport version of China's Changhe Aircraft Industries Group (CAIG) Z-18 helicopter family was revealed in Chinese military press reports in late December.

A Chinese military image of the Z-18A heavylift helicopter during recent high-altitude testing in the Tibetan plateau. (Via FYJS web page)

Seen undergoing testing in the Tibetan plateau, the Z-18A will become the second helicopter in the Army Aviation units of the ground forces of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) capable of performing high-altitude missions. The first is the US-made Sikorsky S-70C-2, 18 of which were acquired in the mid-1980s.

The Z-18 family of helicopters is derived from the 13.8-ton, three-engine CAIG AC313. This helicopter can carry up to 27 passengers or up to 5 tons in external payload. In 2012 the AC313 was tested to an altitude of 8,000 m in the Tibetan plateau; it is likely the Z-18A can match its high-altitude performance.

The first three versions of the Z-18 support maritime missions, including airborne early warning (AEW), VIP transport, and anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The Z-18A shares their basic fuselage shape incorporating lightweight composite materials, and very likely their new 'glass' cockpit. However, the Z-18A does have a flatter nose section with an optical-targeting turret and lacks the rear-wheel pontoons of the naval versions.

COMMENT
Chinese sources speculate that one early mission for the Z-18A will be to lift Norinco's new AH4 155 mm lightweight artillery system. Revealed in 2012 and heavily influenced by the BAE Systems M777 155 mm howitzer, Norinco says the AH4 has a "combat weight" of 4 tons.

The Z-18A can be expected to supplement and perhaps succeed the CAIG Z-8A, an upgraded troop transport version of the Z-8 family that entered Army Aviation service in 2002 and is derived from the French Aerospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon.
China puts Z-18A heavylift helo through paces - IHS Jane's 360
 
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