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CAIC Z-11 - China, 1998

Detailing the development and operational history of the CAIC Z-11 Multirole Light Utility / Attack Helicopter.

 Entry last updated on 11/18/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The CAIC Z-11 light helicopter became the first Chinese helo to be entirely designed on CAD systems - it is based on the French Eurocopter Ecureuil.

The French-originated Eurocopter (Airbus) Ecureuil forms the basis of the relatively new Chinese-designed and -developed CAIC 'Z-11'. The Z-11 is a light utility helicopter developed for both military and civilian markets and is showcased with a broad spectrum of inherent capabilities. It is similar in role and function to the American MD Helicopters MD500 (Hughes Model 500) light series helicopters which has proven a global favorite (over 4,500 having been built).

Development of the Z-11 was started in 1989 and involved heavy reliance on CAD systems (indeed the Z-11 is billed as the first all-CAD/CAM designed Chinese helicopter). The prototype achieved a first-flight on December 22nd, 1994 and, by late October of 2000, the helicopter had completed the requisite testing and certification phases. The Z-11 was introduced in September of 1998 and is manufactured by the Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC).

As completed, the Z-11 features a length of 11.25 meters, a diameter (rotor included) of 10.7 meters and a height of 3.15 meters. Its empty weight is 1,120 kilograms against an MTOW of 2,200 kg. Power is from a Chinese-built WZ-8D series turboshaft engine developing 684 horsepower and driving a three-bladed main rotor and two-bladed tail rotor (set to starboard).

The frontal section of the fuselage is largely windowed for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. The pilot(s) enter and exit by way of automobile-style doors along the fuselage sides. The passenger cabin is fitted directly aft of the cockpit with the engine compartment along the roof. The undercarriage sports a simple twin skid arrangement connecting to the underside of the aircraft at four points. The empennage is slender and houses the drive shaft for the tail rotor.

Armed versions of the helicopter have been featured with wingstubs for mounting variable armament including Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). Door positions have also been outfitted with either machine guns or Automatic Grenade Launchers (AGLs) atop pintle mounts. A chin-mounted optics set is also noted on these armed birds.

There are several variants of the base Z-11 design planned and this includes the civilian market 'Z-11' itself. The Z-11J is a militarized form modified for the rigors of service. The Z-11W is an armed version designed to undertake various roles including reconnaissance, suppression and MEDEVAC. The Z-11WA is a lightened scout platform. The Z11MB1 features the Arriel 2B1A series engine from France. The Z-11ME1 is another noted variant. The CZ11W is a dedicated light-attack form carrying either Chinese or French engines and supports the usual attack ordnance including guided missiles, rocket pods and gun pods. The Z-11WB is an attack-reconnaissance platform with all-new cockpit, weapons stations and increased mission equipment.

CAIC Z-11W Specifications

Service Year: 1998
Status: Active, In-Service
Type: Multirole Light Utility / Attack Helicopter
National Origin: China
Manufacturer(s): Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) - China
Total Production: 46

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 36.91 feet (11.25 meters)
Overall Width: 35.10 feet (10.70 meters)
Overall Height: 10.33 feet (3.15 meters)

Weight (Empty): 2,469 lb (1,120 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 4,850 lb (2,200 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x WZ-8D turboshaft engine developing 684 horsepower driving a three-bladed main rotor and two-bladed tail rotor.

Maximum Speed: 150 knots (173 mph; 278 kph)
Maximum Range: 324 nautical miles (373 miles; 600 km)
Service Ceiling: 17,192 feet (5,240 meters; 3.26 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

OPTIONAL (role dependent):
CS/LM12 minigun, LGS3 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL), 7.62mm/12.7mm machine gun pods, rocket pods, Air-to-Surface Missiles (ASMs), Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs), conventional and precision-guided drop bombs.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)


Model Variants

Z-11 - Base Series Designation; civilian market form.
Z-11J - Militarized variant of the Z-11.
Z-11W - Armed military variant for multirole use.
Z-11WA - Military scout platform
Z-11MB1 - Outfitted with alternative French-based Arriel 2B1A series turboshaft engine.
Z-11ME1 - Variant
CZ-11W - Armed light-attack platform with either Chinese or French engine; revamped over-battlefield capabilities and systems.
Z-11WB - Armed attack-reconnaissance variant; all-new cockpit; revised weapons support and capabilities; multirole functionality.