China unveiled an indigenously developed attack helicopter on Thursday as it eyes a lucrative export market and ramps up an ambitious modernisation programme.
The Z-19E, developed by the state-owned AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry, took to the skies over the city of Harbin for its maiden flight, with images carried on state television.
Based on the Z-19’s design, the Z-19E, also called the “Black Whirlwind” can be used in quick-response, low-impact and frequent attack missions, the China National Radio reported.
“The helicopter is the latest narrow-body tandem-seat armed helicopter. It is also the country’s first export-oriented helicopter made especially for attack purposes,” state news agency Xinhua said.
Deputy chief designer Li Shengwei said the helicopter is equipped with safety features to improve the pilot’s survival rate.
“The Z-19E and Z-9 are similar in many respects,” Li said.
In terms of manoeuvrability and functions, the Z-19E meets international standards and its operating interface is in English, he said.
“The Z-19E has strong market potential as some of its components are compatible with other countries’ military systems,” Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the PLA Rocket Force, told the state-run Global Times.
Song also noted that the helicopter would fare well in the global market.
It is aimed at countries which require light military helicopters with medium-level attack power, he said.
China has rolled out a series of increasingly advanced equipment in recent years, including stealth fighter jets and the first domestically developed aircraft carrier.
China has also increasingly been focused at getting more defence orders on the world market, trying to shed a reputation for poor reliability or cloning weapons.