China Wants to Sell Attack Helicopters to the World
Z-19E makes its first flight
Chinese aircraft company AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry Group debuted its new Z-19E Black Whirlwind attack helicopter during the type’s first flight at Harbin Airport in northeastern China on May 17, 2017.
The first flight of the Z-19E, also known as the AH-19E in Chinese media, entailed a simple lift-off to hover and then several basic low-speed flight maneuvers over the airfield. The aircraft was carrying eight large, white missiles that bear resemblance to the U.S.-designed Hellfire guided missile, along with what may have been a gun pod and a launch canister for high-velocity aircraft rockets possibly analogous to the U.S. 2.75-inch folding fin aircraft rocket.
The crew arrangement seems to be similar to that on the American AH-64 Apache, where the pilot sits in the rear and the weapons operator sits in the front.
A noteworthy feature of the Z-19E is the protected, shaft-driven tail rotor assembly. This is different than the tail rotor on many attack helicopters such as the Apache, European Tiger and Russian Mi-28, all of which feature conventional, exposed tail rotors mounted outside the fuselage tail boom.
The enclosed tail rotor reduces lost thrust by ducting the drive forces generated by the rotating blades. It also reduces noise and is safer in ground operations.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s HH-65C Dolphin boasts a similar tail rotor, as does the Russian Kamov Ka-60- and Japan’s Kawasaki OH-1 light observation and attack helicopter. And enclosed tail rotor is generally more expensive to manufacture and heavier than a conventional tail rotor is.
The Z-19E represents China’s first attempt at a locally-produced, advanced attack helicopter for the export market. The People’s Liberation Army’s current primary attack helicopter is the CAIC Z-10, which is made in China but is of largely Russian design. The Z-10 is an older-style helicopter with an external tail rotor and a cockpit arrangement that resembles that on the Tiger attack copter.
The Chinese developed the Z-19E under a secret contract with Russian helicopter-builder Kamov. The program began in the early 2000s. The United States and Russia have been building dedicated attack helicopters since the 1960s.
Depending on cost, capabilities and import-export restrictions, the Z-19E could draw interest from African, Middle East and Asian countries that can’t afford or don’t have access to Western or Russian designs.