Tuesday, November 28, 2023

New tech expected as China’s top helicopter expo to resume in September

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A Z-8L helicopter of the aviation force of the PLA Army arrives in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province on November 7, 2022 in preparation for Airshow China 2022. Photo: Xia Caiyun/GT

China’s top helicopter expo will resume this year after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with analysts expecting new technologies to be displayed that can give the world some first glimpses at China’s next-generation helicopters.

The 6th China Helicopter Exposition will be held from September 14 to 17 in North China’s Tianjin, bringing flight performances by China’s domestically developed helicopters and professional updates in the helicopter industry, according to a press release on Monday from the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), a sponsor of the expo and the main contractor of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) helicopters.

Held every alternative year in Tianjin since 2011, with the exception of 2021 because of the epidemic, the event is China’s only national-level dedicated helicopter expo that comes with flight performances, according to the expo’s website.

Major helicopter subsidiaries of AVIC as well as the Equipment Department of the PLA Army are among the organizers of the event.

During the 5th China Helicopter Exposition in 2019, the PLA Army for the first time put China’s most advanced tactical utility helicopter, the Z-20, on static display, and had the country’s top attack helicopter, the Z-10, deliver spectacular flight performances that wowed the audience.

In the past four years, China’s helicopter technologies have advanced tremendously, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.

While the helicopter expo was suspended for two years, technological development didn’t stop, so there are good chances that new technologies could be displayed at this year’s expo, the expert said.

China’s new helicopter is already in the making, Wu Ximing, the designer of the Z-10 attack helicopter, said in a media interview earlier this month.

Deng Jinghui, the designer of the Z-20 utility helicopter, told the Global Times in 2021 that China is aiming to develop a 40-ton-class heavy transport helicopter and a fifth-generation high-speed helicopter, as well as integrate high technologies including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 5G communications, new energy and new materials.

In addition, China is looking to add aerial refueling and stealth capabilities to its future helicopters, according to media reports.

There could also be drastic changes to the conventional helicopter design, for example, tilt-rotor aircraft, but there could be even more innovative changes, expert said.

In 2019, the PLA Army displayed not only helicopters, but also the KVD001 fixed-wing drone that can operate together with helicopters and provide the latter with reconnaissance and guidance support.

It is also possible that the PLA Army could display some of its new drones, observers said.

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