China's Type 075 amphibious assault ship (AAS) has revealed an unmanned reconnaissance helicopter model on deck which resembled the AR500C, a new drone that was test-flown for the first time on May 20.
The presence of the life-size model of the AR500C together with that of what looks like a transport helicopter, most likely the Z-8, is intended to test space allocation. The displacement of the Type 075 AAS is expected to be between 35,000 and 40,000 tons, nearly similar to that of the U.S. Navy's Wasp class amphibious assault ships.
Chinese media leaks reveal that the Type 075 AAS will can carry between 28 and 30 helicopters of various types, including the large Z-8, the smaller Z-9 utility and the Z-10 light attack helicopters. Armaments aboard the 237 meter-long ship include two H/PJ-11 30 mm (1.2 in) close-in weapon systems and two HHQ-10 surface-to-air missiles that are developed from TY-90.
“Putting models on a warship's flight deck is a usual approach in outfitting and sea trials to test the compatibility between the aircraft and the ship, finding the best way to arrange the layout,” a military expert was quoted as saying by Global Times on Thursday.
Owing to their smaller size, more multiple drone helicopters can be deployed on the ships for reconnaissance, aerial fire support and precision targeting support missions.
With more helicopter platforms in the sky covering more areas, the warship can gain much better situational awareness with more real-time battlefield intelligence, giving it an edge in making combat decisions, the expert said, noting that when armed with guns or missiles, the drone helicopters can also conduct high-risk strike missions that might be too dangerous for a manned helicopter.
The AR500C designed by state-run AVIC took to the skies for the first time in May. The aircraft stayed in the air for about 20 minutes. The manufacturer says the model was designed based on its predecessor, the AR500B, and in accordance with plateau environments.
It has a maximum takeoff weight of 500kg, a flight ceiling of 6,700m and a maximum speed of 170kmph. It can stay in the air for five hours during an operation and can make autonomous takeoffs and landings.
AVIC said the unmanned rotorcraft can be tasked with undertaking information support operations such as reconnaissance and signal relay. It can reportedly carry additional equipment to carry out various tasks such as electronic jamming, aerial search, fire suppression, maritime surveillance as well as tracing for nuclear or chemical leaks.
“The AR500C can also cooperate with manned aircraft or independently operate in target locking and strike, and supply transportation,” Fang Yonghong, technology director at AVIC, said in a statement.