The Z-19E, China’s first domestic attack helicopter built for export, made its maiden flight in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, on May 18.
First debuted in 2015, the full name of the chopper is Z-19E Yuan Dedicated Attack Helicopter. It is based on the Z-19 light duty reconnaissance/attack helicopter, which has been serving in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the aviation wing of the PLA Ground Force since 2011.
The export version has similar thrust and motor systems as the basic Z-19, which features four rotating blades and a fenestron tail rotor that can dampen its sound for added acoustic stealth. The maximum load of the export version, 4.25 metric tons, is slightly less than that of the Z-19, 4.51 tons, according to its maker, Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, part of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
Compared with international competitors, the Z-19E is smaller, lighter and can spring into action quickly for both day and night missions, such as escorts or to eliminate targets, said Li Shengwei, deputy chief designer for Harbin Aircraft Industry Group.
As for weapon systems, the export version can hold gun pods, two rocket-launching nests and eight powerful air-to-ground missiles for targets such as tanks and fortifications.
To protect its two pilots, the cockpit is designed with seats positioned in tandem and armor plated. The pilots also operate the chopper with a more modernized and compact flight system that can ensure high mobility and versatility even in challenging weather conditions.
The price of the newchopper has not been made public. Though Harbin officials did not reveal identities of potential buyers, its deputy chief engineer Ma Dequan hinted most of them would be traditional buyers of Chinese aircraft such as the Z-9 series helicopters and Yun-12 series cargo planes.
So far, 55 of the Z-9 series multipurpose helicopters have been sold to 13 countries, including Pakistan, Kenya and Laos, making it the most widely sold Chinese helicopter, he said. The Z-19 is based on the Z-9 design.
“The success of an export helicopter depends on us being able to satisfy client needs in cost-efficient ways and provide great logistic support,” he said. “With our past experience, we are confident the Z-19E will be successful in the global arms market.”
Major General Zhu Chenghu, a professor at the PLA National Defense University, said China could sell at least 100 to 150 model Z-19Es in the coming decade. Apart from traditional buyers, new buyers from Middle East, Europe and Africa are likely to emerge, he said.
“The main advantages of the Z-19E are its versatility in challenging conditions and great air-to-ground combat capability,” he said. “These strengths will give a strong edge to countries that are dealing with growing threats from terrorists or pirates.”