China clones the Black Hawk chopper

The Diplomat:
China conducted the first flight test of a new helicopter that is widely seen as being modeled off the U.S.-made Sikorsky UH-60, which is usually called “Black Hawk.”

The Global Times, citing pictures from an online Chinese military forum, reported that the Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter made its first flight in northeast China on Monday. The report said that the supposedly homemade design filled the People Liberation Army’s need for a medium utility helicopter. It added that the helicopter has a capacity of 10 tons and is similar in appearance to the U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopter.

In the 1980s, China purchased 24 S-70C-2s, a supposed civilian variant of the Black Hawk that had impressed Chinese leaders due to its ability to fly at high altitudes. However, it is widely believed that the 24 S-70 C-2s are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Moreover, Pakistan’s intelligence service gave Chinese engineers access to one of the highly-modified Black Hawks that was used by U.S. Marines in the operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. The helicopter that Chinese engineers viewed and took samples from crashed during the course of the operation. Although the U.S. Marines detonated the downed helicopter the tail of it survived the explosion.

Thus, it seems quite possible that this latest “indigenous” creation from China was heavily inspired by foreign designs. There would be extensive precedent for this. Besides China’s general history of cloning foreign defense technology, last year it unveiled a new helicopter, the Z-10/WZ-10 attack helicopter, which it claimed was designed and built indigenously. Earlier this year, however, Sergei Mikheyev, General Designer of the Kamov Design Bureau, a Russian helicopter designer, revealed that his company had secretly provided China with the initial designs of the Z-10/WZ-10 in the mid-1990s. Some have speculated that China has also cloned Boeing’s AH-64D Apache.

Still, The Aviationist points out that there are some notable differences between America’s Black Hawk and the Z-20. Specifically, the Z-20 has a 5-blade rotor compared to the 4-blade rotor on the Black Hawk, a larger cabin and a different landing gear and tail. Based on the location of the flight test, Aviation Week suspects that it was built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC).
I suspect it was also the product of cyber attacks against US manufacturers.  No doubt the Pakistani betrayal was helpful.  The problem for China is that the US is probably already aware of the weaknesses within the design and should be able to target them in any conflict.  Hopefully the US is already moving on to the next generation of choppers.


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