Light-duty Z-11WB offers developing countries multiple deployment options
State-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China showed off its newest light-duty attack helicopter with a flight performance on Friday, aiming to attract buyers from developing countries at the four-day Fourth China Helicopter Expo, which opened on Thursday in Tianjin.
The Z-11WB, developed and made by AVIC Changhe Aircraft Industry in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, is a militarized version of the AC311A multirole civil helicopter and can conduct reconnaissance and ground assault operations. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 2,250 kilograms, maximum cruising speed of 240 km/h, flight ceiling of 6,000 meters and operational range of 680 km, according to AVIC Changhe.
The aircraft can be armed with 21 types of weapons, including machine guns, rockets, precision-guided bombs, anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles. It can carry and launch four small, electrically powered SW-6 drones that can perform reconnaissance, signal relay and missile guidance tasks, according to AVIC publicity material.
Observers have said that the Z-11WB has likely become the only military helicopter in the global market that can launch drones.
Propelled by a domestically made WZ-8 turboshaft engine, the Z-11WB is operated by a crew of two, a pilot and a weapons controller. In addition to fighting roles, it can be used to train airmen and to transport troops - its rear cabin can hold four people.
The helicopter was first flown in September 2015 and first shown at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, in November, but it had not flown in public before the Tianjin expo.
Wei Songlin, deputy chief designer of the Z-11WB, said there are many heavy-duty attack helicopters available on the international market, such as the United States" Boeing AH-64 Apache and Russian Mil Mi-28, but only two light-duty armed models - the US" Boeing AH-6 and Bell OH-58 Kiowa, however the latter has stopped production.
"Many developing countries need armed helicopters, but they are not able to afford and maintain heavy-duty types. Moreover, the US and other Western nations have a lot of specific requirements or restrictions when it comes to arms deals, creating obstacles for some buyers," he said. "So our product has huge potential and many opportunities on the market."
The designer said his company regards the AH-6 as Z-11WB"s major competitor. "However, our helicopter has a stronger carrying capacity compared with the US model and can use more kinds of weapons," he said.
In addition, the Z-11WB can undertake training and transportation missions, which its US counterpart is unable to do, adding to its value, Wei added.