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Harbin Z-20 - China, 2015

Detailing the development and operational history of the Harbin Z-20 Medium-Lift Transport Helicopter.

 Entry last updated on 6/26/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The Harbin Z-20 is thought to be a new unlicensed Chinese copy of the globally popular Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopter.

In 1984, the People's Republic of China procured several examples of the civilian-minded Sikorsky S-70C-2 model. From this, it is widely believed, that Harbin originated its Z-20 medium-lift transport helicopter currently in development for the People's Liberation Army which, in turn, makes the Z-20 the unlicensed Chinese version of the American Sikorsky UH-60 "Black Hawk" transport helicopter. First flight was recorded on December 23rd, 2013 and the project remains in the prototype stages as of February 2014.

For the PLA, the Z-20 will fulfill the same tactical roles as does the UH-60 for the US Army and others worldwide. It is a transport at heart, capable of hauling some thousands of pounds of cargos over distance. In addition to the perceived cargo transport role, the Z-20 will, of course, be in charge of hauling PLA warfighters to and from warzones. The overall configuration and general form is very similar to the American Black Hawk with a few minor differences. One key difference is in the design's reliance on a five-bladed main rotor assembly as opposed to the four-bladed arrangement seen on the UH-60 family. Other than that, the Z-20 maintains a forward set two-seat cockpit with redundant controls, a mid-set passenger cabin and a top mounted dual-engine configuration driving the main rotor and a tail rotor system. The undercarriage remains wheeled and two sliding doors provide the necessary access to the passenger area. As with American UH-60s, the Z-20 is expected to be armed with general purpose machine guns for point defense of embarking/disembarking troops.

Due to the project's early-stage presence, it remains to be seen the capabilities and impact that the line will have in the inventory of the PLA. Of course, it will undoubtedly be selected to replace outgoing, Soviet-era designs in time. The Chinese will also utilize the Z-20 as an over-water transport and field it from its new (and only) aircraft carrier - the Liaoning (commissioned in 2012).

It is worth noting the reports of Pakistani officials granting the Chinese time with the remains of the UH-60 "Stealth Hawk" which was destroyed during the assault on Osama Bin Laden's compound. Information garnered from the remaining components may have very well played a role in the Z-20's development though this will only become known over time - particularly once the Z-20 enters formal service with the PLA.

Harbin Z-20 Specifications

Service Year: 2015
Type: Medium-Lift Transport Helicopter
National Origin: China
Manufacturer(s): Harbin - China
Total Production: 1

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 49.21 feet (15 meters)
Overall Width: 52.49 feet (16.00 meters)
Overall Height: 11.48 feet (3.50 meters)

Weight (Empty): 11,023 lb (5,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 22,046 lb (10,000 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 2 x Turboshaft engines driving a five-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor.

Maximum Speed: 148 knots (171 mph; 275 kph)
Maximum Range: 302 nautical miles (348 miles; 560 km)
Service Ceiling: 18,045 feet (5,500 meters; 3.42 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,400 feet-per-minute (427 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

Usually none though support for door-mounted general purpose machine guns is assumed.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

China (probable)

Model Variants

Z-20 - Base Series Designation