China will unveil the Z-20 utility chopper, a replacement for the US-built UH-60 Blackhawk, at the Zhuhai air show later this year.
Photos showing the Z-20 taking off and flying appeared on Chinese social media in recent days, Sina Military reported on Monday. The helicopter is meant to be deployed in Tibet where currently the UH-60 Blackhawk is doing duty with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).
The Z-20 is a newly developed 10-ton medium-lift utility helicopter, which will fill the gap between light and heavy helicopters, Global Times reported on Wednesday quoting Song Zhongping, a military expert.
Its potential deployments include; as a shipboard helicopter on aircraft carriers and destroyers and on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is designed to operate in conditions of both high humidity and deficiency of oxygen.
China bought the UH-60 Blackhawk from the US in the 1980s to carry out military missions in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. However a US ban on sale of military equipment to China has put a stop to further sales or service of such helicopters.
The ‘20’ designation conveys that it is of the latest technology. The J-20 stealth fighter jet and the Y-20 military transport aircraft, commissioned in 2017 and 2016 respectively are said to be the best of China’s military aviation products.
"The Z-20 is very likely to make its appearance at the Zhuhai air show in South China's Guangdong Province in November," Song said. A small number of helicopters are already in experimental service and the Z-20 is expected to enter mass production soon, he said.
Going by the physical profile of the Z-20 which looks similar to the American helicopter, China's military analysts asserted that it is not a copycat of UH-60 Blackhawk.
The US did not give China core technology and it is impossible for China to copy the Blackhawk without a blueprint, Song said. Even though there may be resemblances in terms of appearance, the avionics and power systems are totally different, he said.