China Replacing Russian Mi-17 Helicopters with Indigenous Z-20 Choppers

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Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has started replacing its Russian-made Mi-17 series helicopters with locally-made Z-20 choppers in transport roles for PLA troops.

During a recent PLA exercise, “the Mi-171 transport helicopter that is common with Chinese army was not spotted. Except for a small number of 13-ton Z-8G helicopters, the most choppers used in this exercise are Z-20 helicopters, Chinese military publication, reportered.

China’s domestically-developed Z-20 and Z-8G helicopters have become the standard equipment of the air assault brigade. This also reflects the general trend that the Z-20 is replacing the Mi-17 series, it said.

China last took delivery of a batch of Mi-171E helicopters in 2014, when its contract with Russian military tech exporter Rosoboronexport for 165 of the Mi-171E ended. Beijing already possesses various versions of the Mi-17s.

However, the PLA  could have ordered the new Russian assault chopper, Mi-171Sh. A Tv program, China’s Phoenix, displayed visuals of a Russian helicopter factory with Mi-171Sh helicopters that were painted with PLA colour scheme and markings in September 2020.

The Mi-171Sh is an assault helicopter. The helicopters are armed with a Shturm-V high-precision guided missile system. The missile system is capable of destroying modern battle tanks.

If reports of a  new order for Mi-171Sh are true, it indicates that while for troop transport roles, the Z-20 is suitable, for assault roles, it still depends on Russian helicopters for their superior performance over Chinese assault helicopters.