China’s Z-20 helicopter displayed at the National Day parade on October 1, packs innovative technologies including fly-by-wire, and is powered by a locally manufactured engine.
"It uses many technologies that should be considered advanced in the world, including the active vibration control, fly-by-wire, low-noise design for rotor and high performance aerodynamic design of the rotor," Wang Xibao, chief engineer at Harbin Aircraft Industry Group under the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), was quoted as saying by local media on Wednesday.
The Z-20 is expected to make its first exhibition appearance at the 5th China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin, which runs from Thursday to Sunday.
“Only a few countries have helicopters with advanced fly-by-wire technology,” said Li Linhua, chief technology expert at China Helicopter Research and Development Institute of the AVIC.
Fly-by-wire is a semi-automatic and typically computer-regulated system for controlling the flight of an aircraft or spacecraft.
The aircraft’s powerful engine opens doors of possibility of flying in difficult conditions. “The Z-20 can operate in high altitudes with low oxygen availability owing to its engine being powerful enough, thanks to technological breakthroughs,” Chen Guang, vice general manager of AVICOPTER, the helicopter branch of the AVIC, said.
The 10-ton helicopter is believed to be equipped with Chinese-made WZ-10 engine (1,600 kW).
According to Global Times, the chopper’s large cockpit windows take up over half of the space of the aircraft's nose, with two extra windows on the floors of the cockpit, giving pilots a very wide view. In the Z-20’s wide cockpit, obsolete dashboards are replaced with control panels using multifunctional screens.
The Chinese chopper is a member of China's most advanced "20 series" aircraft, with the others being the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the Y-20 large transport plane and the H-20 strategic bomber. The rotorcraft can be used on missions including personnel and cargo transport, search and rescue, reconnaissance and anti-submarine operations.
The medium-lift utility helicopter is seen as a competitor to Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. It is speculated that Chinese engineers might have been given access by Pakistan to a crashed US Black Hawk helicopter that was abandoned by US special forces following the infamous raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Key differences between Z-20 and Black Hawk include a five-bladed main rotor and more angular tail-to-fuselage joint frame, giving it greater lift, cabin capacity, and endurance, and the fly-by-wire design. It also has fairings installed aft of the engine exhausts and on the tail spine, which are likely housings for satellite communications or the BeiDou satellite navigation system.